I didn't expect "Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus" to be the equal of "Crisis Point," and let me be perfectly clear in saying, no, this is not in the same ballpark. But it's an enjoyable romp through the holodeck with enough character beats to feel worthwhile as an episode of Lower Decks.
"Crisis Point" still remains the best episode of the series, mainly because it fully confronted its character core (Mariner's issues with her mother) and the underlying darkness of that particular fantasy thread, alongside its parody/homage of elevated Trek-movie conventions. "Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus" doesn't have a thread nearly as worthwhile or as earned, but it does put forth at least something of an effort on the character front while dropping us into the most tried-and-true of all Trek movie plots — the time-travel adventure.
This time around, the jokes and the references to Trekkian movie tropes are expected. Sure, we have a hot love interest for Boimler (aka "Captain Dagger"), although he immediately walks away from her rather than engaging in a romance. Sure, we have elaborate "locations" to expand the canvas. And, sure, we have big action sequences, as when Tendi does a Trinity-like backflip off a speeding hovercraft over a pursuing Romulan vehicle as it explodes during a Mad Max-like chase through the desert. And we have Mariner, complaining to Boimler that his more cerebral subplot that hopes to track down "the meaning of life" is ruining her simpleminded "Vindictaverse" franchise.
If you care about plot, you will likely be disappointed. There's a bunch of time-travel, but merely for show. There's no "there" there. The MacGuffin is the cleverly-named "chronogami," which some villainous Romulan triplets have stolen and will use to destroy the Federation in the past. This takes us to various points including the moment of the founding of the Federation (what, no Jonathan Archer cameo?) and "Sydney, 1982." The rationale for all this is basically nonexistent. And, admittedly, rationale is not necessary.
The substance of the character story is the reported death of Boimler's transporter-cloned doppelganger, William, who died in a meaningless freak accident. This sends Boimler into a tailspin where he must get answers about the meaning of life from his holodeck program, which is represented in the story's mystery of the legendary Ki-Ty-Ha. Unlike the Mariner character core of the original "Crisis Point," this is simply a one-off invented issue of the week. It's serviceable and allows Boimler to dig deep into a personal obsession to solve the mystery, although the deeper he digs, the more nonsense he finds that's been conjured by the holodeck computer, creating and solving goofy mystery boxes on the fly. Ultimately, Ki-Ty-Ha is revealed to be Kitty Hawk, site of the Wright Brothers' famous flight. "That reveal doesn't make any sense!" Boimler furiously notes.
Consider me somewhat nonplussed on the dream sequence where George Takei makes a guest-voice appearance as Captain Sulu and gives Boimler advice from the site of Captain Kirk's Idaho ranch. Words of wisdom from a TOS cast member are certainly always welcome, but this was a bit random and strange.
Considerably less significant are the 60 seconds spent on the Tendi/Rutherford character bit, where Rutherford doesn't care in the slightest what happens with this holodeck game, while Tendi takes it deadly seriously, because she sees it as an opportunity to practice her command chops for her previously unspoken desire to one day be a captain. Sure, fine, whatever.
"Sorry my movie was a letdown," Boimler notes of his sequel. It's a telling quote, although I wouldn't call this episode a letdown so much as simply a foregone conclusion. Of course the sequel wasn't going to live up to the original, so you might as well admit it up front. The writers prudently trash everything about sequels right in the dialogue, because they know full well that they're open targets. It's kind of the whole point.
Three stars, I guess — probably just barely. This is breezy and fun and self-aware enough to squeak through. And I did enjoy the tag where William Boimler wakes up on a cloaked Defiant-class starship, having not actually died but been secretly recruited into Section 31. Maybe he can be the new anchor for the long-rumored, never-greenlit Section 31 series, since by this point everyone else has probably forgotten about it.
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