Star Trek: Lower Decks

"Room for Growth"

2 stars

Air date: 9/15/2022
Written by John Cochran
Directed by Jason Zurek

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

With the engineering staff exhausted from working around the clock to repair damage to the ship caused by Freeman's recent mask-based alien takeover (unlike in TNG's "Masks," the ship is not magically transformed back after having been turned into a museum), the captain orders downtime. The Cerritos arrives at the Dove, a Federation spa facility where the patrons are issued color-coded stress-detecting bracelets and ordered to relax using amenities such as the massage parlor or the (admittedly adorable) puppy play room. (The spa manager says they also have a kitten room if you are one of the "deviants" who are into such things.)

Meanwhile, Tendi overhears the Lower Deckers on the delta shift conspiring to gain access to the system where they can rig the computerized lottery for the much-coveted Deck 1 quarter assignments. So our beta-shift Lower Deckers decide to try to beat them to the punch. This results in them crawling through the bowels of the ship and encountering unexpected obstacles in an episodic string of scene-based gags. Examples include hallucinating from the plant-based growth beneath the botany lab, and ending up in the low-gravity field in the deflector dish, just before it gets activated and becomes a massive centrifuge.

Easily the best of these vignettes is their walking into the middle of a holodeck program (a black-and-white noir-era bank heist) being played through by T'Ana and Shaxs, who are using the crime and violence as a kinky turn-on (okay, it's mostly T'Ana) in what is revealed as a bizarre and rather intense affair.

Eventually the Lower Deckers run into the delta shift and the two teams bond over the absurdities of their boss, Commander Ransom. The camaraderie is short-lived, however, as the delta shifters spring at the opportunity to double-cross their new friends and complete the mission.

Back aboard the Dove, none of the engineering staff is resting, because they're addicted to work and keep working when they're supposed to be relaxing. There's a social commentary about work that could be made here somewhere, but the story doesn't really make the effort and simply plays the gag as Freeman's crew not being able to help themselves, and so Freeman gets overly stressed about the fact that her crew won't de-stress. Ultimately, the engineers work to create a device that's able to de-stress their captain in 10 seconds flat. It's a magical fix that would put the Dove facility out of business, so of course the spa manager wants it disposed of immediately.

"Room for Growth" is the epitome of zero-stakes hangout time, employing basic cartoon logic as a matter of storytelling. In that vein, it's ... I dunno, almost okay-ish, I guess? It's pleasant enough, with a few chuckles, but no real inspiration or big laughs. I see the value of just hanging out with your friends, but I'm gonna need more to chew on than this, either in the form of better character insights or some sort of an actual plot or spark of inspiration. This episode's title is way too self-descriptive, and I realize that's a punchline that writes itself.

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

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20 comments on this post

Thu, Sep 15, 2022, 5:59am (UTC -5)
For some reason, I enjoyed this episode far more than I should have. I would have to agree if someone called it “insubstantial”, “lightweight” or “unambitious”. But it was really fun to watch. I guess LD by now can make an episode just inhabited by its characters, which have become pretty well-defined by this point. Even if the episode does not have very much real content, it contains LD atmosphere and that’s enough to entertain me.
Andy G
Thu, Sep 15, 2022, 9:48am (UTC -5)
This season has been underwhelming so far. I'm all for the humor, but how many hallucinations jokes can you do before it becomes stale. The show needs just a little plot to keep things moving. It's the same lesson the Orville learned. You can keep it light, but if it's too light, it becomes a matter of taste and nothing much happens. This is still Star Trek. You need plot and characters.
Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Sep 15, 2022, 12:01pm (UTC -5)
Not a bad episode by any means (liked it more than Jammer) but this is the second episode in a row where I feel like Lower Decks has taken something of a step backward conceptually speaking.

I don't think that every episode needs to be high-stakes, high-concept, or plumb new depths of the characters, but...there's nothing here we haven't really seen before. Hell, aside from the "Bold Boimler" comment, this could easily be part of the second or even first seasons.

I mean, it's cute/charming. It's amusing, even if not really laugh-out-loud funny. But in the end, it's too light/insubstantial to have left any real impact.
Thu, Sep 15, 2022, 12:42pm (UTC -5)
This week was a bit too gag-heavy and I always prefer the plot-orientated episodes.

Thanks to Tawny Newsome, I did crack up a few times, though. First where Mariner mocks "paper with no intrinsic value" and another line where she casually explains the fate of “bold Boimler” in a year. I don’t know if it’s the delivery or the timing, but she's great!
Thu, Sep 15, 2022, 3:34pm (UTC -5)
Quick shoutout to Jammer's review speed for this one, truly impressive stuff :p
Troy G
Thu, Sep 15, 2022, 8:53pm (UTC -5)
Hate Gun Will Riker,

These Lower Decks episodes are only 22 minutes long thus Jammer can get them done in half the time
Fri, Sep 16, 2022, 7:28am (UTC -5)
@Troy G

And let’s not forget that the S3 episodes, at least until now, have not been par­ti­cu­lar­ly am­biti­ous or com­plex, which sim­pli­fies the re­view. While I do enjoy the sim­pli­city and na­tu­ral fun of the­se epis­odes, I wish they had done more — and where the capital F are the pro­mised ap­pearan­ces of T’Lyn and Ma’ah, and what hap­pened to the thread with Ruther­ford’s implant?
Fri, Sep 16, 2022, 8:16am (UTC -5)
Fun, light fluff. I enjoyed it, but like eating a tablespoon of whipped cream--I would like a little more. Even though the episodes are very short, maybe they could introduce a bit of a plot arc or something.
Fri, Sep 16, 2022, 11:26am (UTC -5)
Just too lightweight show for it's own good, with annoying zany style and not so funny humour and that cliched "adventure time/rick & morty" style animation. What a bummer. Prodigy is WAY BETTER.
Fri, Sep 16, 2022, 2:15pm (UTC -5)
A fun, disposable episode. I know LD is capable of much, much more, yet I enjoyed it well enough for what it was: a bit of relaxing downtime. Which... I guess is on-point for the story? 😏

One or two of these little slice-of-life hangouts is fine. As long as it doesn't become a habit, y'know? :P
S. in Pa.
Fri, Sep 16, 2022, 10:38pm (UTC -5)
This might be a 2-star episode of Lower Decks -- but to make that rating clear, I would have to place my 4-star scale (relative to a series) as a sliding range within a 0-10 scale, which measures objective quality and subjective enjoyment.

I would rank the very best episodes of Discovery at maybe a 5 on my 0-10 scale. That means Discovery's 4-star scale is actually a range from 2 to 5.

In contrast, when I'm rating Lower Decks on a 4-star scale, that range covers from 5 to 8 on the 0-10 scale. In other words, in terms of quality and personal enjoyment, I'm ranking the worst episodes of Lower Decks at least equal to the best episodes of Discovery.
Tim C
Sat, Sep 17, 2022, 5:05pm (UTC -5)
Totally disposable. As Jammer notes, not enough was done with the spa-relaxation story to make it more than a one-note gag tiresomely repeated.

This was the first episode since season 1 where I didn't laugh out loud once! Hopefully it's not a trend.
Mon, Sep 19, 2022, 5:43pm (UTC -5)
Did anyone see a battle star above the planet? Looked like the Galactica
Latex Zebra
Wed, Sep 21, 2022, 6:47pm (UTC -5)
Weakest episode so far but it wasn't awful.
Wed, Sep 21, 2022, 11:19pm (UTC -5)

That was an Andorian Kumari-class battle cruiser from ST: Enterprise. (Aka Shran's ship.)
Mon, Sep 26, 2022, 5:57pm (UTC -5)
I’d give this 2.5 stars. It straddles the line between lighthearted world building, and inconsequential skippable material. In other words it straddles the line between a One Piece filler and a Dragon Ball filler, but it really is filler. With such short seasons though, do we really need a filler? I’d opt for No, but I did laugh out loud pretty hard for the joke that anyone choosing kittens over puppies are deviants. I have to say I agree.
Tue, Sep 27, 2022, 5:58am (UTC -5)
Another kind of "blah" episode from Lower Decks.

I realize every episode can't be "this is the best one yet!!!", but I think we need a shot in the arm.

All good fun, but nothing remarkable.

2 stars from me.
Fri, Sep 30, 2022, 7:52am (UTC -5)
Definitely the weakest episode of the season so far.

Why does every engineer in Starfleet have to be a workaholic? I know we're not supposed to expect character depth from a sitcom, but transcending cliches can actually be pretty funny, in addition to making the characters more interesting. I'd love to see an engineer who isn't a total nerd and who loves relaxing, for a change.
C.T Phipps
Fri, Oct 14, 2022, 1:54pm (UTC -5)
I love how Freeman is such an awful captain she doesn't realize that engineers like their jobs and relax doing them.
Sun, Dec 4, 2022, 1:27pm (UTC -5)
I wish the concept of the delta shifters can be fleshed out more in future seasons. Lower decks has good characters with lackluster storytelling. It's very comfortable to watch and amounts to nothing critical or innovative. This episode I found enjoyable because of the good character moments: The director of the Dove destroying the comfort machine, the officer replicating churros, the love spat between the bajoran officer and the medical officer. A chuckle worthy one for sure

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