Star Trek: Lower Decks

“In the Cradle of Vexilon”

2 stars.

Air date: 9/14/2023
Written by Ben Waller
Directed by Brandon Williams

Review Text

The Cerritos assists a Federation colony on Corazonia, a massive artificial ring structure that was built by an ancient alien civilization millions of years ago and now functions much like Yorktown Station in Star Trek Beyond. Vexilon, the AI climate-control computer (which Freeman notes has "no interest in world domination"), is on the fritz and in need of a software update, which is millions of years past due. But when Freemen attempts to make the updates, the computer crashes, causing widespread climate-based havoc. (First, clouds turn into ice and fall like boulders from the sky, then come the prehistoric volcanoes.)

Meanwhile, Boimler, in his first command as a lieutenant, must have his team of ensigns remove the power cylinders from the system's power core, a job that must be completed in exacting procedural detail, otherwise the power system will EXPLODE. Boimler's problem here is his inability to allow his team to do any work, because he doesn't feel worthy in ordering them around on a dangerous mission considering he was one of them just a week ago. T'Lyn provides a steady stream of logical advice in trying to help him realize his errors.

In an unrelated ship-based plot, Mariner, Tendi, and Rutherford are assigned by Lt. Dirk to find a faulty isolinear chip in a vast array of thousands. After they complete the first array, there's another, more difficult array of thousands behind it. Also, Lancelot the ferret is on the loose. Mariner concludes that Dirk is using this tedious and meaningless assignment to haze the newest lieutenants. As revenge, Rutherford rigs Dirk's quarters with a booby trap that will trap Dirk in a game of what is actually called Chula but we'll just call it by its more proper and known name: Allamaraine. (Who had "Move Along Home" on this week's Lower Decks Bingo card?)

All three of these plots are just kind of there, making for an overall Lower Decks Meh Stew that feels all the more disappointing after the fun in the season's first two outings. The big "twist" is that Dirk's big sob story that convinces Mariner that they actually aren't being hazed (resulting in Rutherford getting trapped in his own booby trap during his hasty effort to take it down) was all just part of Dirk's con after all. The stuff with the climate computer going haywire and all the volcanic eruptions is standard LD zany mayhem. The most character-based substance comes with Boimler's crisis of command, but even that's pretty thin; he completes all the work only to have to undo everything he just did. But the question of whether these ensigns are competent enough to successfully complete such dangerous work is actually a better question than the episode alleges — but, ah, who cares, because the danger is just a joke, right?

When Boimler evacuates everyone else and sacrifices himself in a surely deadly explosion, he is rescued by virtue of being a cartoon. (I was reminded of the rule in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, where toons can't be killed except with "Dip," or in this case, because of Main Character Armor.) In the cleverest and most subtle callback of such a strange idea — which is to say there's no self-commentary on it — Boimler sees the Ascension Koala (see "Moist Vessel") in his vision of the afterlife before being resuscitated. Unfortunately, that's the closest this episode got to a laugh for me. There's nothing specifically wrong with "In the Cradle of Vexilon," aside from that it's far too mediocre to care much about at all.

Previous episode: I Have No Bones Yet I Must Flee
Next episode: Something Borrowed, Something Green

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27 comments on this post

    They got me laughing early in this one with Ransom's art critiques!

    This was one of those great LD episodes that reminds you that before SNW came along, it was already carrying the torch for episodic Star Trek. The megastructure concept would've made for an interesting episode of a live-action series.

    I also liked everyone in this episode getting to show off their competence. From Freeman's knowledge of ancient computers, to Boims actually being a great leader under pressure - I always prefer the episodes where we've got smart characters to root for in these ridiculous situations, rather than being themselves the ridiculous situation.

    All in all probably didn't laugh as much as either of S4's first two episodes, but it was still a good time.

    I'm sensing a pattern here--bigger premises and better jokes. All three eps so far have been 3/4s, wonder if they can keep it up!

    Okay, it can't just be me.

    T'Lyn is AGGRESSIVELY flirting with Boimler in her very Vulcan way.


    While I wouldn't want it to be Endgame, I think Boimler is due for his own Jennifer romance.

    Take note the only other time we've seen a Vulcan be as aggressively mean before suddenly switching to being weirdly complimentary in the same scene was T'Pol and Trip Tucker.

    It's also very common in anime.

    Another very good episode. I didn't laugh as much at this one but was smiling constantly. This season is off to a (Delta) flyer.

    @C.T. Phipps.

    Yeah, there seems to be a little something there. It would be good to see them hook up. As long as they don't drag it out for tons of episodes.

    3/4. Loving this new season.

    This was a step down from the first two episodes of the season for me personally. Not bad by any means, but not as good, in part because it was not particularly funny, just fun.

    The best part of the episode by far was Boimler's section with T'Lyn and the ensigns, as it showcases both the character growth he has already undergone and moves him along even further. Pairing him up with T'Lyn created a fresh new character dynamic as well, including a few potential sparks of romantic chemistry (if you squinted hard enough). I also love that he died (and saw the Koala) paying off some long-term jokes within the series.

    The section with Mariner, Tendi, and Rutherford aboard the Cerritos was meant to show how their roles onboard the ship were changing with their promotions, but given they were given thankless scut work as a hazing ritual it...didn't really feel that distinctive from the work they did as ensigns. The references to Move Along Home and the Bajoran gift box didn't do enough for me to make this segment work.

    The C-plot with Captain Freeman in the control room was, IMHO, a missed opportunity. I was expecting some kind of reaction from the locals when her blunders almost destroyed their megatructure home, but...nada.

    That said, there was nothing wrong with this episode by any means. It just wasn't quite as effective at showcasing both character growth and humor as the last two.

    2.5 stars.

    My only complaint was the last minute or so. The hazing conversation between Ransom and the other senior officer seems even less like Starfleet than Section 31 or Sisko in In the Pale Moonlight.

    I didn't think the hazing was particularly cruel. Getting the new guys to do the crap job seemed to be a regular occurrence during the younger years of my employment and I'm sure it was for others.

    They also hazed Worf when he got his promotion (to Lt. Commander).

    I thought it was great fun and like Tim C I got a big laugh out of Ramson's art critiquing. The whole benevolent AI artificial world set-up was a great (original?) Sci-Fi concept. And T'Lyn's contribution to Boimler's first command mission seemed like a natural fit.

    3.25 stars for this week.

    The thing that I appreciate about Lower Decks is that there is usually at least one laugh-out-loud moment for me in each episode. The really good ones have multiple.

    This time it was the moment when Boimler's limp body explodes out of the power station and flops on the ground in front of the rest of his away team. The moment when one of the ensigns just turns and pukes while the others recoil in disgust. Not sure why that moment did it for me, but it did.

    2.5/4 on this one overall. Agree that it was a step down from previous weeks, but overall still pretty good.

    T'lyn lowkey took command of the mission. She's a badass.

    I was also hoping Q was gonna show up in Boimler's afterlife. Oh well.

    Also, I think Badgey is the unknown villain from the first two episodes.

    @Chris W Re: this season's "villain," Badgey or Dark Boimler would seem to be the logical suspects.

    Apropos of nothing, the Whale Probe from ST4 has been added this season to the opening credits battle that Cerritos runs away from. I had that thought last week, but I just remembered to look at an S3 ep to confirm it wasn't there. Not sure if that is meant to be some sort of foreshadowing or just an easter egg; the/a Crystalline Entity was added last year with no payoff as yet.

    I love it wasn't just the koala in Boimler's brief interlude in the afterlife, but also the Black Mountain that Shax mentioned when he came back.

    I have this feeling for all three episodes this season so far that I'm watching a cartoon. Not a Star Trek series that happens to be animated, like before, but a cartoon like the ones I watched as a kid. I can't put my finger on what's different, it may be me, I won't discount that. It's just another of those feelings I can't explain rationally.

    I think this episode deserves an extra half star at least for NOT taking the obvious route of the factory reset turning Vexilon evil. I totally expected that once it glitched and everything turned red, but I'm glad they didn't do it.

    So I watch Trek culture reviews, and they make a big deal of the line "I miss my wife" in the past two episodes.

    I can't find the original. Was it an Inner Light quote? Thanks in advance.

    Fun episode, but not quite as fun as the first two this season. The climate change animation was a clear reference to the Genesis planet destroying itself in The Search for Spock, complete with the ground erupting randomly.

    Perhaps Boimler's resurrection was a reference as well. I got more of the feeling that Boimler was in a similar room to what Picard visited in Picard's season one finale.

    Imposter syndrome is a thing. Glad to see Boimler deal with it.

    I enjoyed the patch/reboot/whatever sequence of the planet computer. It can be frustrating to figure out why something is no longer working when it did work before an update.

    Fun show.

    Definitely aligned with the review this week; I could barely keep my attention throughout the episode.

    Each element of the plot had plenty of potential, and there were some decent laughs here and there. Ransom's art critique, T'Ana with the "do whatever we did last time!" hand wave, the Koala... there was value in exploring Boimler having to figure out his command style for his first outing, even if it got immensely repetitive. And of course, the Ringworld/Niven tributes were nice.

    But overall it just felt... forgettable.

    And then there's the other element... I've given Lower Decks a free pass on it's references in the past. Maybe it's a museum, or something, where it makes sense to have a bunch of unlikely Trek references on display. And it's kind of woven into the design of the show to pull them out now and then (the Spock helmet in Season 1 showing up, for instance).

    But the nonsense this episode with the anomaly room (or whatever it was called) pretty much dropped all pretenses of a trying to find a reasonable excuse for a "room full of Trek references". Jesus christ, how incredibly lazy. (This is probably how more critical LD viewers feel most of the time.)

    That whole "B" plot felt like a hastily sketched in afterthought.

    There's a decent core to this episode, but it could have used several more drafts I think.

    Lower Decks is better than this.

    > I can't find the original. Was it an Inner Light quote?

    The Irish love interest guy from "Fair Haven"... in the episode the very thirsty Janeway is like "delete the wife" (hilarious) and has her erased from the holodeck story. Twovix references this with the same character lamenting that he misses his wife.

    And then they do it again here with the box's lifetime adventure with the probe fro m"Inner Light", though it's less specific about any one character (I think).

    So was this LD referencing itself last week, referencing Voyager?

    *shrug* Unexpected, in any event.

    I guess we'll have to keep an eye out for future references to absent spouses...? :D

    > I love it wasn't just the koala in Boimler's brief interlude in the afterlife...

    I missed the mountain/Shax connection -- that's great. I love that they've created this whole little afterlife mystery thing. :D

    I noticed the "Black Lodge" zig-zag floor pattern from Twin Peaks, too.

    I assume there was an IP reason they couldn't call it Ringworld, and it really makes me want a Pierson's Puppeteer to show up in LD. Enjoyed the episode (though the game was padding more than anything else).

    Unfortunately, this was rather weak sauce.

    The ring world was fun to watch, but unfortunately not much came from it except a speedy plot of goof that we have seen ma­ny times be­fore on LD. The sav­ing grace really was T’Lyn be­cause her level­headed­ness re­minds me of cha­rac­ters of Past Trek. And hers, of cour­se, is the quote of the day “The lieute­nant junior gra­de first mis­sion mor­ta­lity rate… ap­pears to be ac­cu­rate”.

    For me, Boimler’s death vision had a very Kubricky style to it: A weird­ly de­cor­at­ed room with a koala ap­pear­ing out of no­where like a mono­lith. That’s pro­bably the most me­mor­able mo­ment in the whole episode.

    I found the Cerritos plot very stale, and it lacked T’Lyn as a con­di­ment. Mind­­less tasks per­form­ed by our heroes have already be­come a staple at this point in LD, so if they go this well-​trod­den path again, they bet­ter add an element of zing t it. They didn’t. How­ever, I ap­pre­ci­ate the cojones they had in choos­ing one of the worst DS9 epis­odes ever, “Move Along Home”, to fol­low up. And the re­feren­ce to that stupid game indeed is what worked best for me in this plot — it was fun to see the game being made fun of in-uni­ver­se, because it’s frankly one of the stupidest things Trek has ever come up with.

    So altogether a forgettable episode with a few shiny spots, and two stars seem exactly right. Hope we do better next week.

    I'm just glad they've cut way back on Boimler and Mariner speed yelling over each another. I'm enjoying this season more than the others based solely on that.

    would have been hot to see T'llyn aggressively act on her attraction towards Boim's. Maybe having her fall into a primitive P'onn F'ar state

    Jammer, you actually rated this episode lower than "Move Along Home." That's harsh, dude. That's harsh.

    I liked it, myself. A strong 2.5 stars from me.

    I was almost generous enough to give it a weak 3, but I balked because of the koala. They've stopped writing the koala as a joke. They're writing it as a being that isn't imaginary. I've read that Mike McMahon is now insisting that the koala is canon.

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