Star Trek: Lower Decks

"The Least Dangerous Game"

3 stars

Air date: 9/1/2022
Written by Garrick Bernard
Directed by Michael Mullen

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

When the crew comes to the assistance of a planet (whose society considers health and wellness a top priority) to help them repair one of their space elevators orbital lifts, Ransom assigns himself and Mariner to complete the engineering job while sending the engineers (Rutherford and Billups) to the planet surface to carry out the diplomatic mission.

Meanwhile, aboard the Cerritos, the normally risk-averse Boimler learns that a considerably less cautious peer has had a meteoric rise to become a captain, which makes Boimler think he should take more risks in his professional life in an effort to become "Bold Boimler," leading him to say yes to any opportunity presented to him (like Jim Carey in that movie Yes Man). This quickly goes too far: Boimler agrees to be hunted by a hulking sharp-angled alien aboard the ship, who pulls out various stabbing weapons and informs his new "prey" that the hunt begins in an hour. Comic mayhem ensues.

"The Least Dangerous Game" is an improvement over the season premiere, offering up a solidly entertaining, well-paced entry that works as low-stakes characterization as well as agreeable, albeit not hilarious, comedy. The Boimler plot is so perfectly Boimler, and the Mariner plot is so perfectly Mariner. Boimler hates not over-achieving, and Mariner hates wasting her time on drudgery.

While at first Ransom looks like an idiot for swapping the assignments (he and Mariner fail miserably at trying to make the repairs, and the engineers hopelessly botch the diplomatic mission), there's a method to his madness, which is to push Mariner to the breaking point of frustration in a baiting test of her penchant for insubordination and going rogue. This becomes clear right after she has, indeed, gone rogue to save the day against orders by making an atmospheric dive, just moments before she realizes the whole thing is Ransom's elaborate setup. So she has to abort the dive and climb back up the space elevator orbital lift before Ransom finds out.

"The Least Dangerous Game" has some amusing gags, like the opening D&D-like game of "Bat'leths & Blhnuchs" (a freemium Ferengi version, with various expansion pack upsells), featuring Martok as the game master within an interactive video. (This raises the question of when we might see the real Martok on this show, since he should be leading the Klingon Empire in this time frame.) Or Ransom essentially watching YouTube videos to figure out how to make repairs. Or even, in perhaps the most predictable development, the idea that Boimler's hunt is "catch and release," with an alien predator who just wants a good selfie. Or Mariner's line commenting on the alien society: "Wow, a psychic baby, evil computer, and a volcano. Ever hear of overkill?" Or Ransom saving the day in a moment he was specifically destined for. Or the throwaway gag that's possibly my favorite: the idea that the space elevator features stairs, ladders ... and a climbing wall.

Look, there's nothing "significant" here. This is the very definition of "slight." But slight is what "The Least Dangerous Game," right down to its title, is trying to do, and it does so with a confidently effortless charm.

Previous episode: Grounded
Next episode: Mining the Mind's Mines

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16 comments on this post

Thu, Sep 1, 2022, 4:25am (UTC -6)
That was funny, I liked it better than last week’s outing. LD is really good when it does not try to amp the stakes — with high-stakes epis­o­des it’s al­ways at risk to break its own pre­mise, that is “StarTrek — Goof­balls”. Cer­tain­ly, so­me­times it ma­na­ges to pull off an epic story, but it has a bet­ter re­cord with the smaller ones.

This week I laughed my ass off about Ferengi-programmed Mar­tok as a Game­master (and great they got JG Hertz­ler for that ro­le). I can to­tal­ly see how the Fe­ren­gi would deep­­fake a ce­le­bri­ty li­ke Martok for profit, es­pe­cial­ly sin­ce Klin­gons are so easy to emu­late (just throw in terms like “Sto’vo’kor” or “petaQ” or “ho­nour­able death” every other line — it might be a cli­chée, but Klin­gons are al­most as much cli­ché­ed as the cli­ché­es about them).

But where are Jen, T’Lyn and Ma’ach? We were pro­mised some stories with them, and I get im­pa­ti­ent. And what hap­pen­ed to the story­line of so­me­one (S31?) mes­sing with Ru­ther­ford’s im­plant? I want that sea­son to be ho­nour­able, Qa’pla!
Tim C
Thu, Sep 1, 2022, 7:28am (UTC -6)
I'll echo Galadriel's comment - this was funnier than last week. I particularly enjoyed brave Boimler's table-turning attempt immediately being stopped by a spear to the chest, "I have notes", and the selfie-taking at the end.

On the character front, the Mariner material was interesting. Is this character finally going to turn the corner this year, and start learning from her mistakes? I think of Burnham, and how the Disco writers constantly writing her as insubordinate eventually made me *annoyed* that she took the captain's chair, rather than cheering it. They would be wise to let Mariner finally start simmering down. LD has more flexibility as a more lighthearted show to get her there. Hope they use it!
Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Sep 1, 2022, 8:24am (UTC -6)
Yeah, this was a step up from last week. More of a "classic" Lower Decks episode too, insofar as it was more of a "slice of life" episode which involved three random vignettes rather one overarching plot. Both Mariner and Boimler got forward movement to their long-form character arcs, and I thought it was impressive they were (kinda) paired with Tendi and Rutherford respectively, as the show doesn't mix up the four of them as frequently as it should.

Oh yeah, and it was great they found a way to give JG Hertzler a much larger speaking role this season. And as Martok (sorta).

Were the aliens supposed to be the ones from the TOS episode The Apple, or just highly reminiscent of them?

I still didn't laugh out loud at anything this week, but I at least smirked a bit at a lot of it.

Three stars?
Thu, Sep 1, 2022, 8:33am (UTC -6)
Enjoyed the ep and an improvement on last week, but totally agree with Galadriel that the show shoots itself in the foot by constantly raising the stakes. Like, what was the point of Boimler being stabbed by the spear? The selfie-taking was funny enough on its own by portraying the creature as vain and self-conscious like the rest of us. It's the "everything everywhere all at once" modern Trek takes that shows its insecurity. None of the 4 shows have avoided this. Looking at Enterprise which arguably took low-key too far you can't really blame them but surely there's a happy medium?
Latex Zebra
Thu, Sep 1, 2022, 11:24am (UTC -6)
3 stars. Breezy fun (I think I say that all the time maybe)
Troy G
Thu, Sep 1, 2022, 12:11pm (UTC -6)
Solid Stuff.

3 stars
Thu, Sep 1, 2022, 1:23pm (UTC -6)
I suppose the title refers to both to the Klingon-themed D&D game and Boimler, who plays the role of prey for K'ranch. K'ranch is probably the most inspired part of the episode, which introduces a new race, the Kromsapiods. K'ranchs desire to hunt launches from Boimler himself. Boimler has resolved to be bold, try new things, get stabbed in the shoulder... and make connections!

Meanwhile, the episode makes good on its promise of having Ransom corral Mariner into following the chain of command. While the two characters are great as always, it doesn't really feel like they're breaking any new ground here. In the end, Mariner *does* break the chain of command, but when she learns that Ransom was about to make the same decision she made, she aborts her insubordination and comes back into the fold.

It's difficult to describe the chemistry that Ransom and Mariner have. Clearly, they're both good commanding officer material, but Mariner may be a step or two ahead on the uptake. Since they're both alphas, they can't stand each other, which leads to some almost romantic bickering and tension.

Overall I felt the episode was a little weaker than last week's, but sometimes it's fun to do some inconsequential humor. And yeah, K'ranch looks awesome! Predator meets Jem Ha'daar.
Fri, Sep 2, 2022, 7:42am (UTC -6)
Great "hanging out" episode with some effective character work - agree with the three stars.

I never played D&D as a youth, but we DID play the Star Trek Interactive VHS Board Game...which had, shall we say, limited replay value? The game in this episode is definitely referencing both.

We mostly played it for the opportunity to watch Robert O'Reilly (oddly NOT playing the role of Gowron) bark at us from Picard's chair, and feeling like he was really talking (mostly yelling) at us.
Fri, Sep 2, 2022, 8:27am (UTC -6)
Just fun funny fun, as Dr. Seuss might have said. I loved that Klingon game. And the dolphins--yay! Maybe I just don't have a deep intellectual mind, but I enjoy LD so much more than Disco or PIC, or....I know, apples and oranges...the new Rings of Power show.
Fri, Sep 2, 2022, 1:57pm (UTC -6)
Personally, I want to delve into Mariner's back story: It seems that once upon a time she was a bad ass special forces type operative; it has been hinted at at various times over the last few seasons that she was a great officer on her way up and then something happened and she got demoted and almost kicked out of Star Fleet but then her mom and dad put her on the Cerritos to keep an eye on her. SO how did that happen? How did she get relegated to the lower decks? Is Ransom's training part of an effort to rehabilitate her?
Fri, Sep 2, 2022, 2:00pm (UTC -6)
I too had the interactive VHS Star Trek board game back in the 90's, with Gowron yelling at us. Wathcing our heroes play that game brought back memories.
Fri, Sep 2, 2022, 3:04pm (UTC -6)
I'd forgotten all about the VHS game, but my buddy (who introduced me to Trek) had it! There was also a Star Trek Murder Mystery game and I remember getting the role of Riker. Can't remember who the culprit was though, hah!
Sat, Sep 3, 2022, 1:51am (UTC -6)
@Kyle: "Personally, I want to delve into Mariner's back story"

I'd like to know why her last name is Mariner.
Mon, Sep 26, 2022, 5:46pm (UTC -6)
Man James Cromwell, Jeffrey Coombs, JG Hertzler… say what you will about this show but they know how to handle a guest appearance. I too saw this as kind of a “Yes Man” in space, and really thought the catch-and-release gag was pretty funny. Also, I do believe the native population was right in turning against an outie belly button.
Tue, Sep 27, 2022, 6:51am (UTC -6)
Jammer: "Look, there's nothing "significant" here. This is the very definition of "slight." But slight is what "The Least Dangerous Game," right down to its title, is trying to do, and it does so with a confidently effortless charm."

Exactly why I love the series.

3 stars from me too.
The Queen
Thu, Feb 16, 2023, 12:52pm (UTC -6)
Jammer, yes! Why is she Mariner? I could actually see her just obnoxiously changing her name to spite her parents, but then I'd expect it to have been brought up before now, because they make SO MUCH of her antagonism to her mother.

Anyway, I did like the game aspect and thought it was woven nicely into the whole plot, including the end of the hunt where Boimler takes inspiration from it, to no avail but still it was cute. Also liked the lower frequency of Easter eggs and the especially subtle note that Boimler was needed as a soprano in the choir (heh).

I did end up thinking Ransom was stupid. A good commander wouldn't need to set up a subordinate for failure, and certainly wouldn't risk failure of even a boring repair mission just to prove a point. He saved the day not through skill or intelligence, but beefcake. And frankly, I'm not even sure why that worked, because Billups and Ruthy were still who they were. And I'm not convinced that Mariner learned anything at all, except that she could still get away with doing what she wanted.

Kyle - didn't she say she started the black ops rumor herself?

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