Star Trek: Lower Decks

"A Mathematically Perfect Redemption"

3.5 stars

Air date: 10/6/2022
Written by Ann Kim
Directed by Jason Zurek

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"A Mathematically Perfect Redemption" is the best episode of Lower Decks so far this season because it manages to execute a nearly mathematically perfect formula for comedy. That formula is to ask the question: What happens if we follow a disgraced Starfleet officer who is a completely selfish a-hole and resists every opportunity to overcome her self-centered me-first nature?

The result is a consistently funny off-format episode that works so well because the material finds amusement by simply satirizing well-trodden tropes, which are more or less played with a straight face but with an elevated sense of aggrandizement that plays as a knowing wink. The selfish Starfleet officer in question is Peanut Hamper, the exocomp who abandoned her shipmates in "No Small Parts" and has been floating in space ever since.

She has been trying to find a way out of her predicament for months, if not years, and has managed to slowly piece together a warp engine out of space junk, with only a decorated rock named Sophia to keep her company. The rock plays exactly the role of Wilson the volleyball from Cast Away, except with the key difference being that Peanut Hamper willingly discards Sophia at the first opportunity where it's remotely convenient for her. From that moment, we know this character is not going to be redeemed easily, and for my money, the longer the path to redemption, the better the episode.

Peanut Hamper is voiced by Kether Donohue in a pitch-perfect comic performance that seems like it should be annoying but somehow isn't. We quickly realize how awful Peanut Hamper is and how that's the point. Donohue walks a fine line where it seems like Peanut Hamper could turn sweet and sincere and learn her lesson at any moment ... but simply doesn't. So it instead plays for what it is: shameless self-servingness.

Peanut Hamper crashes and becomes marooned on Areolus, a primitive world of avian creatures and sentient bird people. Here, the episode goes through all the tropes of the stranded officer trapped in a strange land. In addition to the earlier Cast Away references, we also get a healthy dose of Avatar (this non-technological tree-dwelling tribal culture is one with its lands of vast beauty, which of course was itself a take on Dances with Wolves), and Moana (the Areore have forbidden starships buried deep under their village, which their forebears forsook; upon learning this, Peanut Hamper observes, "I guess I haven't been breaking the Prime Directive this whole time!")

We get the scene where Peanut Hamper uses technology to heal the villager who has been bitten by the poisonous creature. ("Science!" she exclaims.) And then we get a "going native" romance between Peanut Hamper and the local hunk, which is funny because it commits to just playing the whole thing basically straight, with earnest dialogue that's self-aware in all its cornball glory, culminating in a hilariously absurd bird/robot love scene. The key to the satire here is the fake sincerity that almost plays as real, but not quite.

The turning point comes when Drookmani scavengers (J.G. Hertzler voices the captain) come looking to salvage the derelict ships beneath the village, which they believe is their right since it is unclaimed abandoned technology. The Cerritos comes in to assist, but the Drookmani attack the ship as well, and we have a big battle on our hands. This works pretty well as action. Will Peanut Hamper save the day, having learned the lesson of stepping up to serve the greater good? That would seem to be the arc here.

Nope. Turns out Peanut Hamper engineered the whole thing, having called the Drookmani to the planet so she could set up her own falsified redemption for her former shipmates, regardless of the actual consequences. Peanut Hamper is selfish even in her big moment of supposed selflessness. And she's not even contrite when her whole plan goes sideways and the jig is up.

By making Peanut Hamper so awful right up through the very end, the episode shows its commitment to the comic bit, and I admire that. This series is usually too nice and sincere to really go for the jugular, and I wouldn't want it to be this every week, but "A Mathematically Perfect Redemption" finds a one-off guest character in Peanut Hamper that it can use to play out a sharper satiric edge. It does this not so much with "jokes," but with a series of events fed through its terrible central character, who clearly took some cues from Eric Cartman. The final shot where Peanut Hamper is put in the AI prison right next to Agimus (Jeffrey Combs, in a callback to "Where Pleasant Fountains Lie") is gold, revealing the episode's title as a mathematically perfect calculated lie.

Previous episode: Hear All, Trust Nothing
Next episode: Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus

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44 comments on this post

Thu, Oct 6, 2022, 2:45am (UTC -6)
I have not commented on a single episode from this season, but was compelled to do so with this one. In short, this episode ranks among the very worst in any iteration of Star Trek. Peanut Hamper proved to be more insufferable than ever; the twist made no sense and undid any character development; and, with the exception of the stray squawk, nothing warranted as much as a chuckle. Despite cameos by J.G. Hertzler and Jeffrey Combs, and a decent alien species, there was nothing to like. Based on rewatchability (i.e., my desire to return to an episode), this outing gets zero stars from me.
Thu, Oct 6, 2022, 3:01am (UTC -6)
I've been very cold on this season so far (aside from "Reflections") but I quite liked this one. Clever, unpredictable and often funny, something I don't always say about Lower Decks. I certainly won't be able to get that weird sex scene out of my head any time soon.
Colin Lindsly
Thu, Oct 6, 2022, 5:52am (UTC -6)
IMO - The series peaked with Season 2; Season 3 feels like a dip in quality. This episode feels like a thing that exists, but that is all there is to it.
Ashton Withers
Thu, Oct 6, 2022, 6:03am (UTC -6)
Easily the worst episode of the season, if I want to see an episode focusing on characters besides the main crew I’d much rather go back to “Wej duj”. The bird species was cool but besides that I really didn’t expect them to go back to Peanut Hamper nor desire it and now I know why I did not desire it, haha.
Thu, Oct 6, 2022, 6:51am (UTC -6)
I feel Peanut Hamper must be a breakout hit among Zoomers, otherwise I can't for the life of me see why they'd focus an episode on such a detestable character.

OTOH I do like the episode conceptually: A piece of sentient Starfleet hardware ends up in the hands of a technologically inferior species, and these people have to deal with meeting a Near-God in terms of power. It's not unlike TNG's "Thine Own Self" except Peanut Hamper is a real jerk and the Aerisolans are very interesting and live on a fine planet that I'm actually interested in.

Besides the Aerisolans themselves, this didn't do much for me. I'm not sure what the message was supposed to be except something vague about how technology influences culture. But there's nothing profound here.

1.5 stars.
Thu, Oct 6, 2022, 6:51am (UTC -6)
I am not impressed by this one, either. Revisiting Pea­nut Ham­per and her sel­fish­ness might have sounded like a good idea on paper, but it did not work for me. Her fre­quent mood swings made her un­pre­dict­able to the point that I lost all inter­est in her.

We see that early on in her re­la­tion­ship to Sophia (a kind of doll, I sup­pose), who was re­duc­ed to hard­ware va­lue at the first signs of dan­ger. On Areolus, she be­haved like ALF in that 90s sit­com, if any­one can re­mem­­ber that one. Like ALF, she is com­ple­te­ly tact­less and self-ab­sorb­ed, but even more si­ni­ster and de­struc­tive, and there are clear signs of con­tempt, ill will and a ten­den­cy towards mani­pu­lat­ing her hosts and saviors.

This sounds like a good recipe for a character study, but such a thing would be hard to achie­ve in a 22 min for­mat. The bird people got little focus, for Peanut Ham­per al­ways stood in the spot­light. And since she was writ­ten so un­lik­able, her scenes felt un­engaging and bor­der­line boring. The climax was con­fusing (how often did Pea­nut Ham­per switch sides?) and couldn’t save the epis­ode, either.

I respect the writers’ bold choice to do something dif­fer­ent, that is, write an epis­ode with very little of the Cer­ri­tos crew and full focus on a guest cha­rac­ter. But it didn’t work out this time, yet I hope the next at­tem­pt will bear less in­sipid fruit (and have a more inter­esting guest cha­rac­ter to focus on). If ex­peri­ence with pre­vious sea­sons holds any water, the best epis­odes of this sea­son are still ahead (and where is my girl T’Lyn?).

This one would end up in the 1 to 1½ star region, equi­va­lent to “mostly bad, but at least not actively of­fend­ing”.
Tim C
Thu, Oct 6, 2022, 6:56am (UTC -6)
Liked this a lot better than last week's mediocre effort - it made me laugh a lot more, for a start - but AMA is right that Peanut Hamper's final double-cross kinda ruined it from a story perspective. I started the episode finding her just as annoying as I did the first time around, until the sarcasm and general bitchiness started becoming funnier and funnier and was making the redemption arc actually worth investing in... right until it was revealed to be a lie.

Too bad!

I find myself agreeing with Colin Lindsly - season 3 feels like a dip compared to season 2. We're seven episodes in and it feels like we've wasted quite a few episodes by this point.
Thu, Oct 6, 2022, 7:01am (UTC -6)
"On Areolus, she be­haved like ALF in that 90s sit­com, if any­one can re­mem­­ber that one."

Remember ALF? He's back, in Star Trek form! :-)
Phase inducers
Thu, Oct 6, 2022, 7:20am (UTC -6)
A complete travesty of an episode. Peanut hamper was annoying on her first episode, in small doses. This was like having my fingernails pulled out.

Season 3 has been a huge letdown so far and it feels like we've wasted so many episodes.
Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Oct 6, 2022, 7:21am (UTC -6)
Personally, I thought it was the best episode by far of the season. Maybe not perfect, but they did something different, and I respect them for it.

For the first time since wej Duj, we get an episode which is primarily from the POV of someone other than the lower deckers. Actually, it's far moreso than that episode, where they were still involved in the C plot. Here we're all in with Peanut Hamper for the first 16 minutes, and the Cerritos was only brought in at all in the final nine. Even then, it's really the bridge crew who are the main interface with Peanut Hamper. Tendi gets a few lines, befitting her "close" relationship with Peanut Hamper when we last saw them. Mariner and Boimler get a line or two, but I don't think Rutherford even speaks. This was a bold choice.

And it pays off in spades. This episode is a very different sort of comedy than most of Lower Decks. There's very little humor here based upon Trek references at all. Instead it's basically "What if we speedrun Avatar, but with a piece of shit for a protagonist?" There's many other references mixed in as well (like the obvious Castaway joke in the opener), but for the most part this is a deconstruction of the Heroes Journey arc, with a completely unlikable protagonist who almost fools you (and the other characters) that she's actually grown into a hero, only to have it quickly subverted. This is not an episode of a workplace sitcom, this is satire.

It was also a smart choice to use Peanut Hamper for this, because this episode is mean-spirited in such a way that it simply could not be done with the main cast of lower deckers. She was the perfect protagonist for this dark, depressing, yet amusing story.

Also, they found a way to get J.G. Hertzler and Jeffrey Combs back, which is enough to add a full star in my book .

I personally think it's a four-star episode, because it did exactly what it set out to do. Asking for a different ending to this is like asking for a different ending to Blazing Saddles. The humor here arguably could have been done a little better, but I think goofy laugh-out-loud humor would have taken away from the satiric elements too much.
Gorn with the Wind
Thu, Oct 6, 2022, 8:59am (UTC -6)
Well, we wanted more character-driven stories, and we got one… for the exocomp
Thu, Oct 6, 2022, 10:24am (UTC -6)
I actually agree with Karl Zimmerman here - there's something bizarre and off-kilter and morbidly nihilistic about the tone of this episode that I find really fascinating and compelling. Felt almost like a South Park episode in places.
Thu, Oct 6, 2022, 10:35am (UTC -6)
Maybe I'm the eternal optimist, but I found Peanut Hamper's redemption surprisingly touching, until the twist, which just felt cynical and hamfisted.

Kinda ruined the whole episode for me.
Thu, Oct 6, 2022, 12:52pm (UTC -6)
I spent almost all of the episode thinking "WTF is this?" So I'm greatly enjoying reading all these polarized reactions; I don't know how I feel about it myself but I suspect it will grow on me.
Thu, Oct 6, 2022, 3:38pm (UTC -6)
It was great fun. As is utterly always predictable, the comments are rife with the typical Star Trek hating wanks incapable of having a good time with Star Trek, shouting into the void here opinions which no one cares about and few will hear.

Love it.
Latex Zebra
Thu, Oct 6, 2022, 5:13pm (UTC -6)
That was excellent. I'm with Jammer. Episode of the season so far. Great to have another episode that isn't just about the Ceritos crew.
I actually look forward to watching this again. Hope they keep up this level of quality for the remainder.
Thu, Oct 6, 2022, 5:33pm (UTC -6)

I actually love Star Trek, and have generally enjoyed Lower Decks. This episode simply did nothing for me, and there seems to be an honest divergence of opinion. Case in point, the following perspective in the review: "Peanut Hamper is voiced by Kether Donohue in a pitch-perfect comic performance that seems like it should be annoying but somehow isn't." For me, the voice and character were very annoying. My vitriol is also likely the product of a loathing for selfishness and an air of superiority, traits central to the character of Peanut Hamper. I suppose if part of the goal of the story was to provide further foundation for a detestable villain then the episode was a success, but Peanut Hamper is a character I could do without seeing ever again.
Troy G
Thu, Oct 6, 2022, 5:50pm (UTC -6)
I’m surprised how many people didn’t like this episode. It is funny AND pretty good Star Trek. I believe it’s one of the best episodes of Lower Decks.
Trek fan
Thu, Oct 6, 2022, 7:03pm (UTC -6)
Pedestrian, dumb and mostly boring redemption story ripped off from a dozen better Trek episodes. This one is especially meh because it sidelines the main cast to focus on a (previously) one off guest star. Two stars
Thu, Oct 6, 2022, 9:22pm (UTC -6)
Having just finished You’re the Worst, it was a delight to discover Kether Donahue voiced Peanut Hamper. Her character in that show is basically a human Peanut Hamper!
Thu, Oct 6, 2022, 10:02pm (UTC -6)
Man, this one has folks all over the map in unusual ways. To me, that makes a risky one-off side story worth it in such a short season, I think. Not my favorite, but I appreciated it.

Fri, Oct 7, 2022, 5:52pm (UTC -6)
Here’s one where your mileage can really vary. I personally could not stand this episode and had to take a break halfway through. The character and voice actress were so grating it took any joy out of it. This is a bit that would have worked well on Futurama, but here, something was just lacking. Some of the bits were a little funny, and I can see how it could hit the right buttons for some. Personally, this was a low for the season, but to each their own.
Sat, Oct 8, 2022, 7:43am (UTC -6)
Nice review Jammer albeit a little surprising. This one struggled to keep my attention.

I didn't care for Peanut Hamper the first time around and even less this time.

Probably my least favorite LD's episode.

1.5 stars from me.
Pat C
Sat, Oct 8, 2022, 7:40pm (UTC -6)

Nice deep Simpsons reference! I use that one quite a bit.
grey cat
Sat, Oct 8, 2022, 8:26pm (UTC -6)
LD is entertaining enough I guess and not irredeemable garbage like Discovery or horribly written like Picard but it rarely engages me that much.

Despite it's short run time I don't really get that caught up or find it particularly funny (maybe the odd smile).

I do like the use of actors from previous series or using the music from First Contact etc though it still seems worth it for a 20 odd minute show.

Personally I thought this was one of the better ones 3 out of 4 for me. I'm not sure what it could ever really do to BE a 4 out of 4 though tbh. This is probably it at it's best (limited Mariner is always a good thing - too annoying in large doses).
TheGerkuman l
Sun, Oct 9, 2022, 4:38am (UTC -6)
I liked the majority of the episode (yes, even the purposefully awkward bird on robot lovemaking), but the ending lets me down. Not in concept; I am completely fine with Peanut Hamper being an irredeemable asshole. It's in the execution.

They had three ways they could've gone about it.
1) Play the scenario straight and let us emotionally buy into it (which isn't what they wanted to do)
2) Have the twist and put in more blatant hints that Peanut Hamper is being disingenuous, so we could emotionally distance ourselves. (What I would have done)
3) Go in between and accept that going for the emotional gut punch and middle finger is going to alienate some of the audience.

They did option 3. I can understand why they did it, but it falls out of what I'd want from Trek and it gives the episode a bitter taste for me and a certain subset of the people who watched.

But again, rest of it is good and I respect them for doing something interesting.
Sun, Oct 9, 2022, 4:45am (UTC -6)
I am finding it a bit weird to see people saying this season is a step down from Season 2. I liked every single episode of this season up until this one, and even then there were a lot of positive things to it.

But that's Trek for you. There is no one single reason to watch it, but multiple things people can gravitate to. For me, its the characters; the main 4 are as lovable as ever and I'm always going to be happy when Dr. T'ana is on screen (especially with Shax).
Reverend Jim
Sun, Oct 9, 2022, 9:28am (UTC -6)
C’mon people- you are acting like a bunch of grouchy neck beards. You are taking your Trek way too seriously and in many ways this was designed to irritate you and it worked.

This will eventually been seen as one of the best Lower Decks episodes ever. I love the black comedy of a narcissistic sociopath character representing Starfleet on a rustic planet and taking on a bunch of Trek cliches in the process. This might be the first actually funny episode of Lower Decks.
Sun, Oct 9, 2022, 10:21am (UTC -6)
I read the review and comments prior to watching the episode, and was prepared to totally hate it. To my surprise, I enjoyed it in a weird way. Of course Peanut Hamper is a disgrace, and kind of grating, but that's the whole point. I'm glad she ended up in robot jail. And as others have said, the bird culture is well-done. I'd like to see more of Aureolus. The bird/robot sex scene was whack-a-doodle to the max...cringeworthy and a bit ick, and hard to get out of your mind. I did think that the visuals of Peanut Hamper in a wedding veil were hilarious--makes me laugh just remembering it. So for me, the cleverness and fresh, original ideas made this episode memorable. No, it's not The Inner Light or the Visitor...but it's not supposed to be.
Reverend Jim
Sun, Oct 9, 2022, 10:38am (UTC -6)
This is actually the Trek comedy series I want. A bunch of passionate Trek loving comedy writers having fun with the tropes and cliches of something I’ve loved for most of my life. A lot of Star Trek is kind of absurd- but that’s one of the reasons I’ve been a fan for 4 decades.
Sun, Oct 9, 2022, 9:34pm (UTC -6)
I fall heavily in the not liking this at all camp. While it was a brave choice to have a one-off character by themselves in a strange new world (sorry) the character ended up the way she started the episode - shrill, unlikeable and, worst of all, not at funny or edgy with the flippant, already dated one liners.

This episode whipsawed between Peanut Hamper learning an important life lesson back to selfish and anti- starfleet in the space of one act! The Gerkuman 1 nailed it above. The writers made a poor choice (disappointing as Ann Kim wrote some of the best episodes prior to this).

I’ve liked most of LD and I’d agree with people that this show may be best of the newer Trek content during the past few years. I think the show is a fun tweak of the nose to a franchise that gets a bit too serious at times - and I say that as a 40 year fan of ST. Rewatched many episodes of LD just for the subtle in jokes, but stuck around for the good character development and good action.

But this just seem to be trying hard to be as cynical as possible with a character with no appealing qualities.

First review to the site…
1/2 star
The Chronek
Sun, Oct 9, 2022, 10:25pm (UTC -6)
Glad to see some people enjoyed this. I agree with Jammer. Great episode, great black comedy. I think this is what you get when you cross Star Trek with something like Seinfeld or Arrested Development, where the main characters repeatedly do the same bad stuff and don't learn their lessons.

Peanut Hamper was annoying, but she was supposed to be, as others have said.

Best episode of the season so far.
Tue, Oct 11, 2022, 3:17pm (UTC -6)
"Poor man's Aurellians." LOL. Another call back to the Animated Series. So is that parrot-like ship's councilllor suppoesed to be an Aurellian?
Gorn with the Wind
Tue, Oct 11, 2022, 9:55pm (UTC -6)
On rewatch, I’m going to give this one 3 stars.

Peanut Hamper is a great example of the “sociopathic robot” trope popularized by Bender in Futurama. Naturally, a creature born 5 minutes ago with no life experiences would be evil. Life is how you learn morals; they don’t just magically appear inside of you.
Gorn with the Wind
Tue, Oct 11, 2022, 10:07pm (UTC -6)
Oh, and another thing. While I know Roger Ebert told us that character names aren’t supposed to be funny, “Peanut Hamper” is probably the funniest name in television history
Tue, Oct 11, 2022, 10:21pm (UTC -6)
"Naturally, a creature born 5 minutes ago with no life experiences would be evil. Life is how you learn morals; they don’t just magically appear inside of you. "

Yeah, I've always suspected that babies are evil. But seriously, I'd argue it's the opposite. We develop morals when we split life into good and evil, and the more we resist and judge our "evil" side with moral norms and codes the more it grows.

Would Peanut Hamper be as she is without Starfleet's code of ethics saying she should be a certain way? It seems to me her behavior is a response to that ethos and a desire to go against it and her coding and the perceived constraint on her freedom.

I wasn't a huge fan of the episode but have to admit there's something in her a lot of us can identify with.
Gorn with the Wind
Wed, Oct 12, 2022, 11:15am (UTC -6)

This is of course a question philosophers have wrestled with for millennia. Does culture make people more or less moral. I subscribe to the former, with my primary point of evidence being how kids act in Middle School (as it’s called in the US).
Gorn with the Wind
Wed, Oct 12, 2022, 11:25am (UTC -6)
Adding to my point, we also have classic Trek and Twilight Zone episodes about children/youths who cause havoc with a mixture of godlike powers and amorality.

It’s not that they’re “evil”, it’s that they haven’t yet developed the part of their brains which tells them to view the world through something other than a prism of all-consuming selfishness.
Wed, Oct 12, 2022, 4:57pm (UTC -6)
@Gorn with the Wind

"This is of course a question philosophers have wrestled with for millennia. Does culture make people more or less moral. I subscribe to the former, with my primary point of evidence being how kids act in Middle School (as it’s called in the US). "

Yes, school can make people more moral. But gang culture (also a thing in the US) is also culture, and can quickly turn an innocent and fun-loving child into a criminal.
Sat, Oct 15, 2022, 4:55am (UTC -6)
It makes sense that this episode would be polarizing - it's got a mean sense of humor, and that's not everyone's bag. I've got to say though, I'm really shocked by all the people who feel like it would have been better had it been more conventional. Making Peanut Hamper more obviously disingenuous as we approached the climax, or making her redemption genuine, or making her personality less churlish...nearly all of the suggestions I'm reading in this thread would have rendered this episode utterly toothless. One of the most common worries upon Lower Decks' announcement was that it would just be generic comedy in a Starfleet uniform. In light of that, it's surprising to see so many people calling for this episode to be more generic and predictable.

In case it wasn't obvious, I think this was one of the best episodes in the series. It fully commits to every single bit and doesn't try to sand the edge off anything.
Lower Decks is consistently at its best when it shows that kind of commitment to its bits (c.f. "wej Duj," "Much ado about Boimler," etc.) and at its worst when it just gets glib (c.f. "Temporal Edict," "Strange Energies," etc.). I've enjoyed the series overall, but this episode's definitely a standout.

I find I have about a 50/50 agree/disagree rate with Jammer's ratings, which is why I enjoy reading them (longtime reader, but I think this is the first time I've commented?), but with all the back-and-forth in the comments thread, I wanted to hop in and say this review was spot-on.
Wed, Oct 19, 2022, 9:54am (UTC -6)
People seem to either love or hate this episode. I'm on the fence.

The Bad: I found the character of Peanut Hamper and Kether Donohue’s performance VERY annoying. There were many scenes where I wasn’t sure if they were meant to be taken seriously, or if it was supposed to be funny (either way, it didn’t work for me).

The Good: The ending redeems it a little, in that I didn’t see it coming and it turned a Trek cliché on its head. It's cynical, sure, but cynical can be fun sometimes, even if we Trekkers wish everyone could be redeemed.

Perhaps I would enjoy this one more the 2nd time, but for the moment I don't feel like watching it again.
Wed, Nov 2, 2022, 8:09am (UTC -6)
One of the best episodes of the show. I was looking forward to Peanut Hamper getting another comeuppance and this delivered.
Adolfo Franco
Fri, Dec 9, 2022, 12:41pm (UTC -6)
No Mariner around. Neat episode.
The Queen
Tue, Feb 21, 2023, 9:42pm (UTC -6)
There seem to be no two ways about this one. I cast my vote on the zero stars side of the fence. I don't find contemptuous viciousness funny, I couldn't stand the voice, and I didn't see any point to the story whatsoever. I don't believe explicit sex and constant foul language belong under the Star Trek title. Non-porn sex and contextual foul language, okay, but this went way beyond that. I believe its intent was to shock, pure and simple. It's not for me.

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