Star Trek: Lower Decks

"Mining the Mind's Mines"

2 stars

Air date: 9/8/2022
Written by Brian D. Bradley
Directed by Fill Marc Sagadraca

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

When a scientist at a research station on an alien world inhabited by stone-like people (the "Scrubble") is tempted by his greatest fantasy (his hot seventh-grade teacher) and turned into stone by a magical telepathic artifact, the Cerritos crew comes in to clean up the artifacts before they can do any more accidental harm.

The Lower Deckers are on the case, and while they do the cleanup, they have to deal with hallucinations created by the artifacts which reveal their deepest fantasies. They must avoid temptation lest they be turned into stone — while also competing against the USS Carlsbad's Lower Deckers, whom they are assigned to work with, and whom they assume regard them as a bunch of screw-ups.

The biggest problem with "Mining the Mind's Mines" is its utter lack of imagination. A story that uses the Trekkian staple of the fantasy world showing the crew false images could've been used to reveal interesting things about the characters, or at least use the fantasies to drive some clever comedy. Instead, we get a bunch of surprisingly obvious jokes and "zany" cartoon action.

Rutherford's fantasy is Leah Brahms, which is a yawn-worthy obligatory TNG reference. Boimler's fantasy is being the safe passenger-seat-riding sidekick to an awesome leader (what happened to Bold Boimler?), which is far too obvious. Mariner's fantasy is revealed to be her Andorian sorta-girlfriend Jennifer ("We're just hanging out!"), which I guess is the most interesting of the three because it's actually a specific thing about one of the characters, but still just a shrug. This all eventually devolves into a jumble of manic action (a giant Jennifer monster, clowns with bat'leths for arms, etc.) which is definitely a thing that Lower Decks does, but is among the things about this series that does the least for me.

Meanwhile, aboard the Cerritos, Tendi is assigned to be mentored by professorial birdman Dr. Migleemo (Paul F. Thompkins) for senior science officer training, but finds that the pragmatic Dr. T'Ana does a far better job without even trying. There's also a brewing feud between young hotshot Captain Maier versus "experienced" (i.e., old) Captain Freeman. This eventually becomes a big shouting match in the conference room as various plot things are uncovered. Loud, yes. Funny or inspired, no.

It turns out the Carlsbad Lower Deckers don't actually think the Cerritos Lower Deckers are a bunch of laughingstocks, but rather "the coolest." And it turns out the alien mind-reading artifacts are actually part of a big phishing scheme (a clever usage of a Trekkian staple in service of referencing a 21st-century issue) done in collusion with the Federation researchers. The plot here ties together surprisingly neatly, but on the whole this is pretty weak sauce that wastes a promising premise, and the least of the entries in the season so far.

Previous episode: The Least Dangerous Game
Next episode: Room for Growth

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24 comments on this post

Thu, Sep 8, 2022, 3:37am (UTC -6)
It's great to finally see some space exploration this season, and I loved the concept of the "psychic mines" - booby traps that lure you with your inner desires. Was that a callback to "This Side of Paradise"? So many TOS episodes involve wish-granting phenomena, hah.

Anyway, I was engaged off the bat by the structure of the episode which set up a cool main plot on the planet in conjunction with a diplomatic mission on the ship. In a twist, the crew of The Cerritos, known for being slackers, are being portrayed as formidable rivals for the visiting "Cali-class" ship and its own Lower Deckers.

Most of the action takes place on the planet, where the psychic mines created an illusion of the original Booby Trap, Leah Brahms (Does Rutherford have the same fantasies as Geordi? Or is Brahms just a big deal). It also made an illusion for Boimler that predictably created command career-forward Starfleet role. Perhaps most intriguing, it brought Mariner's frenemy Jennifer back from last season's finale, but this time as a romantic fantasy. We already know Mariner is omnisexual, so I guess she has a thing for Andorian females (and some wolflike ex-girlfriend?)

Turns out the psychic mines were a byproduct of a high-class phishing scheme devised by the aliens who offered friendship to the Federation as a cover. I thought the reveal was handled well - allowing every member of the Lower Deckers to figure out a piece of the puzzle. And the rival Cali-class ship got learned to cooperate with offbeat ways of the Cerritos.

Very good. This is a 3.5 for me. Gene would be pleased.
Thu, Sep 8, 2022, 8:09am (UTC -6)
I thought the chain saw went a bit too far.
Thu, Sep 8, 2022, 8:45am (UTC -6)
Klingon Borg-clowns though
Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Sep 8, 2022, 9:52am (UTC -6)
I found this to be a relatively strong episode. Funnier than the first two, and (cameo from Leah Brahms and the feathered dragon from TAS aside) the humor was not really reliant upon memberberries from other Trek shows. Indeed, a lot of the story here was related to things established in earlier seasons! Beyond that it was really more focused on generic Trek tropes, rather than specific Trek references. And the series continues its "heartwarming" vibe, with the team from the competing ship just thinking the Cerritos was really cool, along with more adorbs Tendi. It's amazing to me how the show can manage to ram in character arcs into such a short run.

I guess - since Boimler was the only member of the away mission not to fantasize about a hot woman - we're retconning away his first-season characterization, and he's asexual now?
Thu, Sep 8, 2022, 4:40pm (UTC -6)
"we're retconning away his first-season characterization, and he's asexual now?"

I took that as him fantasizes about his career more than anything, not necessarily a statement about his sexuality. I think that's pretty true to character.
Troy Gravitt
Thu, Sep 8, 2022, 5:05pm (UTC -6)
This is a perfectly fine, reasonably entertaining episode of Lower Decks brand of Star Trek. The pacing is breakneck, which may have been unavoidable given how much was crammed into this episode.

And that may be what Lower Decks does best, is give us 45 minutes worth of story in half that time. No time for “First Duty” speeches here, but I will say that LD uses its time better than Orville: New Horizons.

Thu, Sep 8, 2022, 9:27pm (UTC -6)
Meh. It just wasn't very funny, and a lot of it was stupid. I agree with Jammer's score.
Fri, Sep 9, 2022, 5:43am (UTC -6)
Well, it's nice to finally realize that Lower Decks is human. Every episode can't be a hit.

It was still fun and all, but I think this is the "blah"ist episode of the series to date.

Nice to know that the LD folks are the cool cats on the bottom tear block though.

2 stars from me.
Fri, Sep 9, 2022, 12:30pm (UTC -6)
Since when is Mariner "omnisexual" (Or just "gay" for us oldsters.) ? Not that is matters, I was just curious if the show had ever addressed the characters' sexual preferences before. I would love to see more of Mariner and Jennifer, especially since they had been all Mean Girls/catty with each other for the last two seasons, it would be a hilarious pairing. Plus it would be nice to develop Jennifer's character and back story more, expand the ensemble, learn more about the supporting characters. I'd also like to see more of Jet Manhaver. Lots more comedic potential.
Fri, Sep 9, 2022, 1:37pm (UTC -6)

Back in the Tom Paris episode -

TENDI: You have a thing for bad boys?

MARINER: Oh, I'm always dating bad boys, bad girls, bad gender nonbinary babes, ruthless alien masterminds, bad Bynars.

TENDI: Huh. I don't know if I've ever seen you date anyone. You usually seem to be with Boimler.

MARINER: What? Ew, no! What?
Fri, Sep 9, 2022, 4:41pm (UTC -6)
Thanks Chrome. Also, I was wondering where I had seen the feathered serpent before. Went back and rewatched TAS How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth, some 40 years later. So thanks Karl Zimmerman. So with all the call backs to TAS, shouldn't that now be considered canon and Jammer, do you have time to review it?
Fri, Sep 9, 2022, 5:08pm (UTC -6)
TAS is on the "extended back-burner." I hope to do it eventually, but it will have to wait until I have the time and motivation.
Sat, Sep 10, 2022, 7:35am (UTC -6)
TAS is well-worth watching, for those who have not seen it. And "Yesteryear", written by D.C. Fontana, is one of the best Star Trek universe episodes Ever--cartoon or not.
Sat, Sep 10, 2022, 6:45pm (UTC -6)
It’s was alright, not great and not terrible. Perfectly decent filler for this show. I still like this series a lot but as someone said above they all can’t be zingers.

Leah Brahms was kind of unnecessary though, and to be honest I’m kind of a little surprised the actual actress reprised the role. Let me explain: While I personally enjoy those Brahms / Geordi episodes (especially the one where she “finds out” in the holodeck haha) it seems like Geordi’s behavior for the whole thing has been seen in a very negative light in the many years since that episode aired. He’s kind of a creep to be honest. I figure the actress - sorry I don’t know her name offhand - might have also changed her tune / her endorsement of the whole thing and not wanted to come back to Trek because of it.

People with much more insight and intellect have gone into it a lot further - Steve Shines is a good example. Just surprising, is all.
S. in Pa.
Sat, Sep 10, 2022, 10:06pm (UTC -6)
I find that even a meh episode of Lower Decks, such as this, is more meaningful, fun, and enjoyable than just about any Discovery or Picard episode. I marvel at how they manage to pack so much substance into 24 minutes, while the average Picard episode meandered for an hour and went nowhere.
Andrew Taylor-Cairns
Sun, Sep 11, 2022, 11:36am (UTC -6)
I liked this one more than Jammer, even if it was more average for me. `Still some fun moments in it.

I'm doing a big franchise rewatch and relatively recently finished TOS and TAS. I think many of theTAS episodes are more memorable than TOS's third season, which takes a lot of getting through! Jammer reviewing TAS at some point would be cool.
Sun, Sep 11, 2022, 3:34pm (UTC -6)
Most of this season has seemed weak (although I enjoyed Bozeman in the season opener). Perhaps after a great season of Strange New Worlds that demonstrated what “real” Trek can do, Lower Decks as a concept no longer feels filling.

How about following up on the implant storyline?
Sun, Sep 11, 2022, 4:03pm (UTC -6)
I liked the bit where the Carlsbad crew said “We do not sneak!” and Mariner quickly responded “Yeah, I don’t sneak either!”

It’s likely a reference to Roddenberry’s explanation for Starfleet not needing cloaking devices because “Starfleet doesn’t sneak around!"
Tim C
Mon, Sep 12, 2022, 4:18pm (UTC -6)
Was on holiday last week so missed this one when it aired. Most of you all have voiced my thoughts, so I'm just going to note the two LOL moments for me:

* After being chased into the cave by a hideous manifestation of Mariner's psych issues, Boimler's line "Mariner, maybe you need to go back to therapy" really got me. The timing and Jack Quaid's terrified-but-matter-of-fact delivery were just *chef's kiss*.

* The cutaway from Dr T'ana screeching and wielding a chainsaw. I don't know why the "crazy, bitter cat doctor" jokes are so funny to me but they get me every time
Tue, Sep 13, 2022, 3:26am (UTC -6)
LOVED this episode.
High-concept Nu Trek in the vein of Children of The Comet and the last 2 episodes of Discovery this season.
I half-wondered if the other crew themselves would be revealed to be another fantasy or nightmare.
Latex Zebra
Wed, Sep 14, 2022, 7:33am (UTC -6)
Weaker episode but still enjoyed it. I like that the Lower Deckers are kind of looked up to and hope there is a bit of development from them that they're not just a bunch of screw ups.

P Car
Wed, Sep 21, 2022, 6:15am (UTC -6)
Always good to see Leah Brahms. I re-watched Galaxy's child last night due to LD having Susan Gibney back to see if he was creepy or not (as I remember it being fairly creepy as he made her feel guilty for discovering his fantasy plaything). I don't think he intends to be creepy in this episode, I think he's just hopeless with women - communicating, treating them as equals, acting around them. The list goes on. In fact if you notice his character is hopeless with women throughout TNG whether he has a crush on them or not. The only exception is Guinan who ignores all that anyway - although he does laugh at her as well. He also can't handle it in an episode when a junior officer has a crush on him. He's inept.

Not that is excusable.

I like to think they get together eventually. If you look at it 'charitably', Leah doesn't seem that bothered and seems to realise it is because he is inept and that she isn't perfect either (as she admits at creepy and uncomfortable fungilli dinner). No doubt she knows many inept with women engineers...

Anyway, always a huge fan of Leah. Named my daughter after her.
Mon, Sep 26, 2022, 5:52pm (UTC -6)
2 stars from me, but I really like continued gag of dealing with these daily life-threatening cleanup jobs as if the crew was turning in their TPS reports and trying to get away with playing Minesweeper on the the clock. Very nonchalant and understated which I always appreciate. That being said, the A-plot was meh, and the B-plot with the Captain and a space rock was sub-meh. Oh well, they can’t all be winners.
Walking Bear
Wed, Nov 2, 2022, 5:44am (UTC -6)
I marked out and yelled "KUKULKAN!" when he appeared. (I was slightly disappointed that he was just one of a hundred throwaway references though, despite knowing full well what show I was watching.)

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