Star Trek: Lower Decks

“Parth Ferengi's Heart Place”

3 stars.

Air date: 10/5/2023
Written by Cullen Crawford
Directed by Brandon Williams

Review Text

Lower Decks is such a strange hit-or-miss affair that I should know better than to sing its praises (like I was working toward after the season's first two promising episodes) or give up on it completely (which I was halfway considering after last week's endurance test), because now here comes the Ferengi Episode, which somehow manages to be the best episode of the season so far, and in the upper ranks of this series, and one of the best Ferengi comedy episodes ever (granted, it's a low bar). Finally, the Ferengi have found a vehicle where they make sense — in a cartoon.

First things first: The Serial Mystery Vessel appears in the opening scene and destroys a Ferengi ship, in a sequence that plays out exactly as in the previous three examples. This is still uninformative and monotonous.

But after that's out of the way, we get into the episode proper, which follows up DS9 by showing reformist Rom after having taken over as Grand Nagus, with wife Leeta along as First Clerk. (The episode makes Leeta more valuable and competent than most DS9 outings, as a partner negotiating Rom's business deals. Both Max Grodénchik and Chase Masterson lend their voices to reprise the roles.) Ferenginar wants to apply to join the Federation, and Captain Freeman and Admiral Vassery must negotiate the terms. Vassery quickly finds himself snowed by Rom playing dumb (or dumber than usual, I suppose), and stupidly re-opens the contract for negotiation, allowing Rom and Leeta to insert all kinds of provisions to Ferenginar's advantage. Freeman tries to object, but is consistently dismissed by the gullible Vassery, so she can only look on in helpless annoyance — until the end when she takes control of the negotiation by strategically employing fine print.

This is one of four (!) threads in the story, and all of the threads are effective and amusing and use brevity to their advantage. Our four lieutenants are sent to Ferenginar's surface to do some tourism reconnaissance for the Federation to update the travel guides. (Mariner on the always-raining Ferenginar: "It's like what heaven would look like if God was stupid.") Mariner ends up reconnecting with her Ferengi pal Quimp (last seen in "Envoys" from season one), where she gripes about being a mentor, gets drunk, and then picks a bar fight with the galaxy's politest biker gang in a blatant act of self-sabotage. It's Mariner reverting to her worst tendencies for unknown reasons, and even Quimp — who has evolved — asks her why she's stuck in such a state of arrested development. I thought we had gotten past this with Mariner, but clearly not. The episode doesn't resolve this question, so I'd imagine we'll be seeing more of it.

Meanwhile, in his hotel room, Boimler discovers the wonder that is television, something the Federation has long since gotten over, and is reduced to a zombie by the intoxicating effects of lurid cop shows, soap opera melodrama, and relentless advertising. (The Ferengi have been said to be a reflection of current-day capitalism, and that stands as the case here.) The jokes are on point.

In the primary character story, Rutherford and Tendi pose as a married couple to review a romantic resort (and get a discount!), but quickly find they are very uncomfortable with any notion of sexuality regarding each other, like a romantic photo shoot that's foisted upon them. But then they find themselves in a bind when it turns out that defrauding the establishment to get a discount will land them in jail, so they have to keep the charade going, which eventually involves a very confused Migleemo as a third party. This is Sitcom 101, but it works, and asks a question about these two that was inevitable — is this couple going to couple up, or are they going to stay in the platonic friend zone? If there's a disappointment here, it's that the story completely dismisses the possibility of a romance when exploring it could lead to some interesting minefields with real stakes. There's a reason sitcoms so often play the will-they-or-won't-they game.

The Easter eggs are here, and they all work within context: Slug-O Cola, self-sealing stem bolts, a drink appropriately named "Dagger of the Mind." But the best is Quark's Federation Experience Bar & Grill, a perfect play on the Quark's Bar & Grill from the Star Trek: The Experience attraction in Las Vegas (shuttered in 2008), itself a take on Quark's bar from DS9. So the embedded references are themselves embedded references. Rutherford on Quark's Federation Experience: "Maybe this will feel like we're at work."

There's a reason this episode works where an episode like "Empathological Fallacies" fails, and that's because it makes the effort to approach the story from a standpoint of character and logical behavior rather than pointless, plot-manufactured lunacy. Also, it has good jokes instead of lame ones, making the episode enjoyable rather than eye-rolling. Crazy, right? I know humor is subjective, but the difference in the level of perceptiveness here is palpable. So it goes with the unevenness that is Lower Decks.

Previous episode: Empathological Fallacies
Next episode: A Few Badgeys More

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28 comments on this post

    Much better than last week's rather limp effort, although it once again fell into that Lower Decks trap of spreading our main characters too thinly, with the resulting feeling of being less a cohesive episode of television and more a bunch of thinly-connected Star Trek-themed animated sketches.

    Ferenginar is the perfect setting for this show, though: DS9 turned Ferengi culture into such an outlandish caricature that they were basically cartoons by the end anyway. There were a lot of background jokes that landed for me: "Uncle Quark's Youth Casino", the idea that Ferengi libraries are all casinos, or their war memorials are actually laments to lost profits. I also got a laugh out of Mariner's opening line on landing: "Wow, it's like what heaven would look like if God were stupid!"

    On the character development front, it really feels like Boimler is getting shortchanged so far this year. Mariner's bad habits wearing thin is a plot we've seen ad nauseum by this point, but she's at least giving the impression that she's growing up. I was actually rooting for Rutherford and Tendi to hook up, because the chemistry has seemed obvious since almost the first episode of the show. Letting them off the hook without either of them admitting it to each other seemed like a bit of a cheat from the writers.

    I liked the story line about Freeman keeping up with the Nagus in trickiness, not to mention Rom trading on his reputation for stupidity, but the rest of the episode left me flat. In fact when it ended I actually said, "What? That's it?"

    Some day, maybe there will be an episode where I actually like Mariner. This wasn't it, though. Also, I missed T'Lynn.

    IMHO, the best episode of the season yet. It was genuinely funny, and managed to balance out four different storylines without any of them feeling decidedly weak.

    I really liked the worldbuilding they did with Ferenginar in this episode. It was pretty much already a cartoon even on DS9, but the budgets of that era meant we never got to see anything much, making it seem like a small town somewhere rather than a bustling planet. The Ferengi TV shows in particular were a highlight for me, but there were so much satire here that worked.

    The core of the episode was undoubtedly the Tendi/Rutherford stuff. It was cringe in the best way possible, seeing them be incredibly uncomfortable, even despite both of them clearly having romantic feelings for one another. The status quo returning at the end of the episode felt like a bit of a cop out, but the show does engage in light serialization, and I'd like to think this isn't just going to be a one and done thing.

    The Freeman plot with the crappy admiral and Rom/Leeta was cute. I was at first kinda let down that the guest stars played such a minor part in the episode, but I felt Rom in particular was very true to his DS9 character, and I liked that they gave Freeman a chance to be competent here. Plus, we know from Discovery that the Ferengi join the Federation eventually, so it was a nice touch doing it onscreen here.

    I'm not sure what to think about the Mariner stuff, mainly because it's left unresolved. I do like they brought back the Ferengi friend from the first season, but we don't really understand why she is unhappy. I think the show is likely hinting at more deep-seated mental health issues. It would be interesting if it went there, because I don't think we've seen a Star Trek handle depression as anything other than an "problem of the week" thing before. Regardless, at least she admitted to herself by the end she had a problem, even if she doesn't know what the problem is.

    The Boimler subplot was disposable fluff, but it was funny at the very least.

    On the whole, I have absolutely no complaints here. This worked quite well as a "very special episode" and provided forward movement for most of the main characters. More like this please!

    I found this less impressive than last week’s out­ing, but is was still solid. Feren­gi­nar is of all pla­nets the dul­lest, there is no­thing to see there than rain (“what hea­ven would look like if god were stu­pid”) and com­mer­ce. It did laugh about the Do­mi­ni­on War Lost Pro­fits Me­mo­ri­al, though.

    Meeting Rom and Leeta again was much fun, some­what blunted by the ex­ces­si­ve­ly mo­ro­nic Ad­mi­ral who did not see through the cha­rade when every vie­wer, their grand­mother and even Free­man got in an in­stant. I liked how the twain play­ed the “dumb cop/​rea­son­able cop rou­tine”, which is very in-cha­rac­ter for Rom. That he got out­smart­ed by Free­man was the cli­max of the epis­ode.

    The adventures of the Lower Deckers, how­ever, left me cold. I liked the re­ap­pear­an­ce of Quimp (from “En­voys”), but I could have done wit­hout a bar fight (though, “dag­ger of the mind on the rocks” sounds, ahh, dra­ma­tic); Ma­ri­ner’s soul-search­ing is wel­come but now so re­pe­ti­ti­ve that I didn’t even ex­pect any­thing to come from it. There was po­ten­tial in Boim­ler’s in­tro­duc­tion to com­mer­cial tele­visi­on, and I got nost­algic for the time when I saw tele­visi­on with­out com­mer­cial breaks, but I guess we have to wait for the 23ᵗʰ cen­tu­ry to rec­ti­fy the pro­blem, or get our stuff else­whence.

    Tendi and Rutherford are a perfect team, and might make a good coup­le. Alas, the epis­ode did not go that way but was con­tent to de­liver a few trite jokes and re­turn to status quo. I did like the Mi­glee­mo scene where Tendi shows sig­ni­fi­cant skills in social mani­pulation.

    I am also disappointed that there was no pro­gress in the Mys­tery Ship plot. We did see it de­stroy an­other ves­sel (with the least cha­ris­ma­tic Lower Decks crew yet), but no­thing else. Please, do the con­clu­sion of this plot as a mul­ti-par­ter to pro­per­ly har­vest all the ten­sion built up.

    I have troubles selecting the most funny quote of the epis­ode, so I go for the ge­ne­ric but nost­algia-heavy “You've been wea­ther­ing
    that stem bolt for so long, it pro­bab­ly can’t even self-seal any­mo­re”. Which re­minds me that O’Brien never made a cameo in Trek v3 (ex­cept from the sta­tue in “Tem­po­ral Edicts”). Hey, there is still a place where no Trek v3 show has ever gone before!

    In the end, I see that I have made this epis­ode look­ing per­haps worse than it was; T’Lyn’s ab­sen­ce just irks me, and I award 2½ stars. In the past, LD sea­sons peak­ed around epis­odes 8–10, so I am not too dis­ap­point­ed. Yet, a lot has to be cram­med into the last four epis­­odes; we have the dang­ling thread of Boimler’s twin and S31; there is ru­mour on the web that AGIMUS and Pea­nut Ham­per will be seen again; and the Mys­tery Ship is still on the loose. How is this all going to end? Perhaps “In Fire”.

    @Galadriel I disagree that we didn't get movement on the mystery ship storyline. I thought the opening was heavily implying that one of the Ferengi was working with the mystery ship, as he seemed to be expecting it. The Ferengi screams continuing after they were apparently vaporized also seemed to me to be a clue that the crews are not actually being killed.

    I was also disappointed that Tendi and Rutherford got "reset" so easily, but I think the point was that kind of reset is not that easy. They'll figure it out at their own pace. Side note: haven't they seen each other naked like, a bunch of times in the communal sonic showers?

    Rom taking advantage of his reputation as an idiot was a fun subplot, especially since it turns out the love of baseball was genuine (he also appears to still suck at it).

    I forgot about my very favorite detail from the episode: Jerry Goldsmith's theme is a real in-universe piece of music! I'm going to say that playing it at the Starfleet Experience is confirmation that it's the in-universe Starfleet March or something.

    Speaking of guest stars, I thought I recognized Parth's voice but I wasn't expecting it to be Dave Foley.
    Also I'm very slightly happy that we actually got the tiniest bit of insight into what's actually going on with the "disintegrator" subplot, can't wait to actually find out the truth in a month.

    I thought "Ferengi Landlord Cops" was hilarious. I also really enjoyed Rom going on and on about baseball, knowing exactly what he was playacting at but seeing it from Freeman and the Admiral's perspective. Making him Grand Nagus always seemed like a bit of a joke at the end of DS9 because it isn't the sort of job that he would realistically be good at, or even want. But despite that there was a faith engendered by the groundwork the series had built that he would somehow figure it out and accomplish what he needed to. Watching a tiny piece of it happen was fun and, I thought, fit with how it would work with him being Grand Nagus, since Grand Nagus he is and must be.

    Ferenginar applying to join the Federation was momentous. I know they had done so by the time of Discovery, but that seemed like it would be several centuries yet, not just a mere decade or so after DS9. And yet it kind of works. It's a lot of changes in short order for their society (remember how recently women had no rights at all?), yet Ferengi have shown themselves to be both impressionable and adaptable and as long as they can be convinced there's profit in it, they will go along with most things.

    Wouldn't it be something if they joined the Federation before Bajor! Sisko got sent to DS9 to bring Bajor into the Federation, failed but his actions resulted in Ferenginar joining instead. Both kind of hilarious and epic at the same time, and very DS9-Ferengi-episode-like.

    The Dominion War Memorial of lost profits was also pretty funny.

    Mariner's story was tacked on and pointless but it's nice to see someone calling her on her shit. Time to grow up now. It's not so cute anymore, if it ever was.

    I'm not the biggest fan of Tendi and Rutherford acting like teenagers either. If you like someone, shoot your shot like an adult. That said, the whole weird conversation about them being a thruple with the birdcounselor (I can't remember his name and don't feel like looking it up) and "breaking up" to get out of trouble for abusing the couples' discount was pretty funny.

    Episode also suffered from a lack of T'Lyn. Could have inserted her into the Mariner subplot just fine I think and it would have elevated that plotline, as well as given her an opportunity to provide in turn for her insight into her behavior and its motivations like she (Mariner) had just done for her (T'Lyn) in the previous episode. That would have been nice.

    . . .

    Anyway, what's it going to take to get Worf on this show? Is no one calling Michael Dorn?

    Easily one of the best Lower Deck’s episodes. The continuity nods for the Ferengi from Deep Space Nine were so well-handled I welcomed them for a change. This also feels like a rehabilitation of Rom’s arc from when we last saw him. Most of the action takes place aboard The Cerritos, where we get to see Rom and Leeta (it’s great to have Max Grodénchik and Chase Masterson back). Lower Decks fully acknowledges that Rom may have not been the best choice for Grand Nagus, and the episode plays that fact straight for most of the episode. However, Rom turns the joke into his advantage as his talent to obfuscate stupidity allows him to be a cunning negotiator.

    Elsewhere on Ferenginar, the most notable story is given to Rutherford and Tendi who agree to a fake relationship as part of a mission to obtain data on the Federation’s equivalent of Trip Advisor. Their façade quickly escalates into a Frasier-like comedy where they must keep up the farce to avoid high-stakes trouble. This charade works because audience knows about the friendship between Rutherford and Tendi and almost wants them to get together. But the episode smartly ducks the romance question and leaves us wondering.

    Although it’s nice to see Mariner blend in with the Ferengi (her having Ferengi friends was established seasons ago), her problem leads to worrisome self-destructive tendencies. The season seems to be milking Mariner’s qualms with her promotion as season-long arc. Trouble is brewing, but only time will tell what’s really going on. Boimler’s material is lightweight and caps of some good TV gags.

    3.5 stars.

    Might be the funniest episode in ages. Easily going into my favorites list.

    The Mariner subplot fell a little short, but everything else was hilarious.

    Certainly glad to see "Tendiford" getting some attention, too. ;)


    Enjoyable enough, but far from LD at its best. It was nice to engage in some more DS9 nostalgia, but I was never a fan of the ferengi episodes. I found it more interesting to see how the main characters reacted to a capitalist environment.

    I expect Rutherford and Tendi's relationship to be a slow burn. I've enjoyed seeing an opposite-sex friendship--there are surprisingly few of those in media--but I get the romantic potential. I don't see that changing overnight, but that wouldn't be very fun to watch anyway.

    I'm not enjoying this season as much as the last few, but I'm hopeful that it will find its footing again. But Migleemo's "you don't have to throw up in my mouth twice" line got a laugh out of me.

    I laughed out loud multiple times. A great episode and easily one of LD's best. Digression: I do have my doubts though that the Ferengi would join the Federation and be bound by all of their laws (including, presumably, not trading with the Federation's enemies). Not to mention, Ferengi culture isn't exactly progressive. Then again, Rom is in charge and he almost died for the Federation so that part makes sense.

    Love the more in-depth visit to Ferenginar. "Ferengi Love Songs" is a guilty pleasure of mine because of all the little social and cultural details blended into the story.

    I've also always found the establishing shots of the planet, where it's always raining very calming, while the hobbit hole-like dwellings looked cozy and comfortable. Even the sound of the door panel is nice.

    Always great to hear Rom and Leeta again—I'll take all the DS9 guest stars I can get!—as well as the return of Quimp, who like Quark doesn't come off as a "typical" Ferengi.

    The scenes of alien ships being destroyed (or absorbed? ... Stored, V'ger style?) have become rather competitive and redundant, but at least the ship disappearances have been mentioned three episodes in a row in the main stories.

    Whatever this is building up to, it involves every major player, so perhaps there can be some teamwork between former enemies.

    As for Mariner, it's clear now she's dealing with some kind of illness or complex that she had previously "self-medicated" by continually rebelling against authority and remaining knocked down to ensign.

    Now that she's an LTJG she no longer has that crutch to lean on. It will be tough for the show to address both this and the overarching Big Threat in the few remaining episodes, but I look forward to the attempt.

    I'm reasonably certain in both cases it will be more satisfying than the Ahsoka finale, which resolved *nothing*.

    Two and half stars for me. Nice to see Leeta and Rom again — like the great Star Trek the Animated Series, Lower Decks gives us the joy of resurrecting old characters years later to continue their stories as if no time has passed in the series. And the Ferengi hijinks somehow work in this animated setting with its split-second gags, whereas they sometimes felt tedious in hourlong DS9 episodes.

    That said, I didn’t find the B plots involving the lower deckers very interesting here. Kinda wish this show could find more interesting character moments to balance the main peril plots. The first commenter on this thread expressed a wish for better character development for Boimler. While I don’t expect much of that in a half-hour, episodic animated show, I do think LD can do a better job of involving the main characters in the A level plot here, allowing them to grow and act in-character in relation to solving a problem together.

    That’s something TAS did very well, as in Yesteryear and The Counter Clock Incident: Kirk, Spock, et al were always deeply involved in the main stories in ways that felt true to character and developed the Trek universe, despite the limited animation. Too much of Lower Decks still feels like frivolous Star Trek V humor that is incidental to the main action and interminable, forced rather than arising naturally from the plots. I think the problem must be the writers: we’re not dealing here with familiar scribes from live action Trek, ala TAS’ use of Dorothy Fontana, etc. Too much of Lower Decks feels more like the sort of Trek fan fiction I might have written when I was 15, dropping constant callbacks for their own sake. It’s watchable and not unpleasant, but it’s also inconsistently engaging because of the lack of good written and tight plotting.

    Tendi and Rutherford's anime-esque blushing throughout the episode makes clear that they're more than friends even if they're less than lovers. However, IIRC the showrunner has said that none of the four mains will ever hook up, so perhaps this is just throwing another bone to the shippers.

    My two cents? If you can pair up Riker/Troi, Worf/Jadzia or Bashir/Ezri, you can pair up Tendi and Rutherford. I'd like to see them at least try to cross that bridge. Will it happen? Who knows!

    @philadlj That's not quite what McMahan said. He said more or less that romance is not, and will never be, the focus of the show (which is very fair, because Star Trek never has been that). But just before he said that he also said he hoped Tendi and Rutherford might get together someday because they're so compatible and cute together. So I think it'll probably happen in the natural course of things.

    I kind of see Mariner's self sabotage as something different this time around. I know people who have been fighting for or against something for so long that once that thing resolves they feel like they're missing something. Mariner is finally in a good place with her friends, her superiors, her career, and her mom and it just feels wrong. She doesn't know how to live life when everything is going right. To me that's an important distinction from her issues beforehand. Trying to become a well adjusted human being after a lifetime of lashing out is hard for those who've never known anything different.

    I can appreciate that people are tired of self-sabotage plots for her, but I don't think it's a "same old Mariner" reversal to old ways, it's her grappling with a new stability that she's never known.

    [writer’s room]

    We need a TV show that the hyper capitalist Ferengi would adore….what are two things online leftists despise?

    - Cops!
    - Landlords!

    I was howling at the very notion of “Pog and Dar: Cop Landlords”, then ecstatic when they showed it in action.

    It was obvious and they didn’t really do anything with it, but the episode title shouting out “Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace” was another nice touch.

    > This is still uninformative and monotonous.

    Not quite true: monotonous as it may be, the repeated opener finally gave up a sliver of extra detail: the ambitious Ferrengi was apparently _expecting_ the ship to show up. An interesting wrinkle that complicates my assumption about the rogue AI squad being involved.

    @ HaveGun_WillRiker,

    Agree concerning Mariner. That's how I see it anyway.

    I also agree with Jammer. This is much better than last week's effort.

    Seeing Boimler getting sucked into binging some TV was pretty funny; especially in the Star Trek universe where we never see any TV aside from Tom and B'Elanna.

    Rom being Rom... nice to see he loves baseball. I thought Leeta's proportions were a little lacking ... lol

    Rom and Leeta were voiced by Grodénchik and Masterson, but many times it didn't sound like it to me.

    The Adimral's voice was very familiar... I looked it up and this guy (Fred Tatasciore) has voiced everything under the sun, so it's probably a bunch of characters that I remembered.

    I thought the funniest part was when Rutherford put Tendi in the Jefferies tube and then crawled in on top of her right after they said they were more comfortable being just friends.

    3 stars from me.

    Aside from the slight moving along of the mystery ship…mystery at the beginning, this episode almost seems like it was run out of order and should have been earlier in the season, due to the lack of T’Lyn and Mariner reverting back to lashing out.


    "The Adimral's voice was very familiar... I looked it up and this guy (Fred Tatasciore) has voiced everything under the sun, so it's probably a bunch of characters that I remembered."

    Ha, it's probably even simpler than that, I assume you recognize him from this very show - He's also the voice of Shaxs, among a dozen bit parts like Landru and Armus.

    I was actually a bit surprised poking around the Lower Decks IMDB a bit to see the admiral in this episode, Vassery, is actually recurring. He showed up twice in S1 (only once in the flesh, the second time was in the first Crisis Point episode so I guess he made an impression on the Lower Deckers lol), kinda fun to see he's still kicking around.

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