Star Trek: Lower Decks


3 stars

Air date: 9/7/2023
Written by Mike McMahan
Directed by Barry J. Kelly & Jason Zurek

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Cerritos crew oversees the transport of the USS Voyager to Earth, where it will take permanent orbit as a museum exhibit. (This is presumably before it gets transferred to Geordi's museum starbase, where it will reside by the time of Picard's third season.) But while aboard the ship, history repeats itself in the form of a Tuvixification transporter accident that merges T'Ana and Billups into a single cat/human hybrid lifeform who calls himself "T'Illups" and declares, "I love being alive!" — which is a nice way of lampshading the fact the story can't just murder him like Janeway maybe murdered Tuvix.

What to do about T'Illups? Freeman declares that she'll do what Janeway did, because Janeway is a famous and heralded captain who faced the same dilemma. I enjoyed that this episode full-on acknowledges the controversy of Janeway's decision — which has loomed so large in the decades since "Tuvix" — to the point where Mariner notes about Freeman's initial intention, "She knows that Janeway straight-up murdered Tuvix, right?"

"Twovix" is an entertaining romp that shows what Lower Decks has become as it starts its fourth season — which is essentially the same show it was in its first season, but more refined, balanced, restrained, and effective at doing what it does. In setting this episode aboard a museum-ified Voyager, the writers allow themselves to plunder the archive for as many Voyager references they can fit in.

The setting allows the inclusion of everything from the macroviruses (which get upgraded with Borg nanoprobes), to mechanized replicas of the "Threshold" salamanders, to every possible Voyager holodeck nightmare — including that Irish dude from "Fair Haven," the clown from "The Thaw," and Chaotica from the 1930s space serial. Also, Boimler's line, "The ship was damaged by cheese," which brings me back to "get the cheese to sickbay," which is an all-timer when it comes to hilarious Voyager lines delivered unironically. The action here is your typically silly Lower Decks comic mayhem; nothing to get excited about.

Deep down, I guess I was hoping the writers would figure out how to "solve" the moral dilemma of "Tuvix" in a new and interesting way, since murdering T'Illups wasn't going to be a viable solution this time around. But the writers sort of cheat their way out when T'Illups decides to start making a "Tuvix army" by transporter-merging as many crew members as possible into hybrid combinations as a proactive defense against being un-Tuvixed. Then T'Lyn, the newest and most deadpan member of the Lower Deckers, accidentally combines all of the hybrids into a giant mass that Tendi hilariously describes as a "non-sentient blob of meat." Undoing the "Tuvix-y meatball" kind of washes away the moral dilemma.

But "Twovix" is the right blend of zany animated absurdity, Trekkian sci-fi, and sincere characterization. There's a decent character core here, where Boimler is up for promotion but doesn't want it to jeopardize his friendship with Mariner the way it did when he was transferred to the Titan. As it turns out, Mariner recommended Boimler for the promotion. And by the end of the episode, all four of the original Lower Deckers are promoted to lieutenant J.G. (except for Rutherford; more on that in the next episode), which shows that this series is willing to let the characters grow a bit, even if that growth means nothing truly needs to change. (Indeed, one mild disappointment here is Mariner's complete lack of any desire to be promoted. Even after three full seasons, she still occupies the same space of perpetually arrested development.)

In an isolated closing scene aboard a Klingon vessel, a mysterious ship emerges, fires a beam at the Klingon ship and destroys it in a single flash of light. Serial alert!

Previous episode: The Stars at Night
Next episode: I Have No Bones Yet I Must Flee

Like this site? Support it by buying Jammer a coffee.

◄ Season Index

27 comments on this post

Jeffrey's Tube
Thu, Sep 7, 2023, 2:36am (UTC -5)
As an unabashedly massive Voyager fan, this episode was pure joy. The final scene is like the epilogue to Endgame we never got with that infamously abrupt ending Finally.

Favorite gags:

Everyone who gets "Tuvixed" has Neelix's costume patterning across the shoulders of their uniform for no reason.

T'Lynn is a provisional Ensign with a Voyager-style provisional rank pip (and is referred to as such, though on Voyager Chakotay and Torres were never referred to as "provisional"). Also T'Lynn ordering "water, room temperature" from the replicator.

"All we have to do is break Voyager. How hard can it be to break Voyager?" Heh.

Borgified animatronic Threshold salamanders. (Is this funny if you've never seen Voyager? Is evil Michael Sullivan funny if you've never seen Voyager? I have no idea, but I've seen Voyager, and every single reference was well chosen and well-utilized and made me laugh.)

. . .

They killed Ma'ah from wej Duj at the end!!!

. . .

I know this is a comedy, but I'm a little disappointed they punted on the ethical question of Tuvix so completely. I guess the show doesn't want to

a) Take a side in the longstanding debate amongst the fandom that still has no real consensus after 25 years, because it would be seen as taking an "official position" for the Star Trek franchise as a whole, and that lessen the discourse around the episode and the issue it presents forever more.


b) Criticize Janeway's decision (maybe; it's one of the two options) and thereby damage a beloved character's legacy (maybe).

So instead they have characters show surprise at Janeway's decision but punt on judging it by saying "well we're not trapped in the Delta Quadrant though, maybe we have options like she didn't think she did." Then resolve the whole situation by having T'Lynn, in the course of trying to contain all the Tuvix hybrids, beam them into the brig but not realize it would accidentally combine them all together into a nonsentient blob of meat, that can thereby by separated into its constituent parts with no ethical quandary.

A punt. But it's a comedy, so sure, that's fine. And having a Tuvixed being fight for its existence by Tuvixing everyone else is, as far as I'm concerned, really f-ing funny.

. . .

What year is it supposed to be on Lower Decks S4? 2384, right? In that case, Picard has already left the Enterprise-E to begin assembling the Romulan rescue fleet. The Cerritos should not be concerned about Romulan plots. Hmmm, I wonder if the writers forgot.

It would be really cool if they could get Michael Dorn to do a guest voice as Captain Worf and make it canon that he was captain of the E-E, because this is the time period where he would have been. It's been implied on screen but not outright stated. And the ship is out of service by 2386, so they only have two more seasons to do it . . .

Also Chakotay is missing on the Protostar in 2384. Boimler would certainly know this when he mentioned him. Would have been a nice opportunity to give a shoutout to Prodigy.

I guess it took six years for Starfleet to study and strip out all the alien, Borg, and future tech in Voyager before allowing it to become a museum ship, eh?
Thu, Sep 7, 2023, 5:52am (UTC -5)
That was a nice episode, and I had a lot of laughs starting from the Koala in the very first se­conds of the intro. The epis­ode then quickly turned into a nost­algia feast and re­fe­renced “Macro­cosm”, “Thresh­old”, “Learn­ing Curve”, “The Bride of Cha­oti­ca”, “The Thaw”, “Fair Haven” plus many that I pro­bably mis­sed. I was very pleased with all the ab­­sur­di­ties in that sub­plot with its “kooky Voya­ger solution”.

I must admit I was concerned about this episode’s title — who can think of an epis­ode less funny than “Tuvix”? May­be “Dear Doc­tor”, but then? To make a come­dy out of this motif is hard, because the moral grey and humor don’t mix well, there being a mine­field of bad taste territory, risk of ba­na­li­ty or out­right cyni­cism. I feel the epis­ode touched on banality with its sim­plis­tic so­lu­ti­on that de­pend­ed on the merged people be­hav­ing host­ile and losing their sen­tien­ce, which under­cuts the moral di­lem­ma cen­tral o the original epis­ode. Still, it was a partial suc­cess, and I ad­ored every minute of T’Lyn, be­cause I love in­tel­li­gent wo­men (© RoboCop). It is really nice to see Vulcans getting some posi­ti­ve de­pic­tion, since both DIS and SNW seem to have an aver­sion against Vul­can­ness.

The ceremony at the end was well-earned and overdue. I am not so sure what to think about the epi­logue — what a waste of a good cha­rac­ter, un­­less it was a Klin­gon equivalent of Kobayashi Maru si­mu­la­tion, or this Bird of Prey atypi­cally is equip­ped with es­cape pods. Also, was not William Boimler and S31 expected to be the ant­agonist in S4? What is this ship with the weird face sup­pos­ed to be?

So I think this was solid 3/4, but not great. Quote of the episode: “Safety protocols set to random”.
Tim C
Thu, Sep 7, 2023, 5:52am (UTC -5)
LD's best season premiere yet, I think. A good blend of madcap energy, Trek nostalgia and genuine character development (so long as these promotions stick, that is!). I loved how quickly Freeman's confidence in Janeway turned to horrified shock at her "solution" to Tuvix.

There's always* that moment in an LD episode that flips me from smiles and chuckles to outright laughter, and this one got me with the scene in the transporter room.

T'BILLIPS: This is Swhale Swhalens. He's a combination of Steve Stevens and Matt the whale.


T'BILLIPS: He's not my best work.
Tim C
Thu, Sep 7, 2023, 5:53am (UTC -5)
*"always"... except some of the lows of season 1
Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Sep 7, 2023, 9:28am (UTC -5)
The best season premier of Lower Decks yet! Admittedly, not a high bar to reach, given Lower Decks has this strange tendency to put their weakest material towards the start of the season, and save their strongest episodes for the back half.

I will say I'm not a VOY fan. I didn't watch much of it when it came out, and only finished it later in the "Netflix era" for the sake of completeness. I found the show occasionally excellent, sometimes godawful, but mostly bland. Thus I have no nostalgia for it. Yet they managed come up with a sensible plot framework to build an episode entirely around Voyager callbacks, without resorting to everyone (or anyone!) being a special guest star. Was it funny? No, not particularly - I don't find Lower Decks laugh-out-loud funny in general. But it was charming as hell.

The thing that makes Lower Decks shine, however, is the deft use of character arcs, which it somehow manages to make work in half the runtime of other Trek series. The episode balanced well the A-plot (which was driven by Boimler and his own guilt about his impending promotion), and the B plot (the actual Tuvix stuff, where we see Tendi repeatedly attempt to make T'Lyn into her "bestie"). Plus we end on genuine change to the status quo, with (most of them) getting promoted.

A perfect episode? Not really. While it was amusing, the idea of the "Tillups" just turning into a mutineer was a wild veer, and every other transporter hybrid immediately becoming accomplices was...ridiculous. It's one of those situations where I do have to presume there's comedic shorthand in order to maintain immersion. Still, it was enjoyable, it did the job, and given Lower Decks tends to close strong, I'm happy (other than the apparent death of Ma'ah - I hope this is a fakeout),

Three stars.
Thu, Sep 7, 2023, 10:28am (UTC -5)
@Jeffrey's Tube As they frequently say at the University of Iowa, punting is winning. I was surprised that they even went as far as to use the word "murder" when referring to Tuvix, so I'm not surprised they found a neat solution without the ethical problems.

AFAIK, the first person to use "Tuvix" as a verb was Ryan's Edits on YouTube (it's a hilarious video, btw). You think the Lower Decks team watches that channel?
Thu, Sep 7, 2023, 12:17pm (UTC -5)
That was a fun episode. They also called out Janeway's murderous ways. Lots of callbacks to Voyager, I was entertained. After the weakish 1st season this show found its niche spot. Looking forward to more.
Thu, Sep 7, 2023, 1:58pm (UTC -5)
An entertaining opening episode, I was a little disappointed we didn't get any of the actual Voyager actors for a quick cameo, but we only have 24 minutes and there were tons of easter eggs to get to.

Also, how fun to hear Andy Richter guesting as the nervous curator :-)
Thu, Sep 7, 2023, 2:04pm (UTC -5)
As a fan of Voyager, I really enjoyed the comedy in this episode! My favorite line, which really poked fun at all the series, was "Starfleet systems are easy to circumvent". Ain't that the truth when the writers needed to move the plot in a certain direction!! Anyway, it great to seeing these characters get promoted to lieutenant JG, and watching Marris desperately trying to refuse the promotion was hilarious. As for the whole issue of to Tuvix, I actually thought it was hilarious that everybody kept referring to what Janeway did to him as murder. It was definitely a tip of the hat to the debate that episode sparked all those years ago... Great start to the season, 3.5 stars for me!
Thu, Sep 7, 2023, 2:36pm (UTC -5)
Hey all, it's great to be back talking about Star Trek again!

I liked this one fairly well as most of dramatic tension banks on Boimler's all-but-certain tendency to screw up a big mission. And Star Trek loves to maintain the status quo, so "Twovix" sets the audience up thinking that Boimler will somehow ruin his chances for a promotion while somehow winning a pyrrhic victory.

As for the setting, Voyager is not my bag, but it worked for me by simply having a passing familiarity with some of VOY's sillier premises. Along with all the funny Voyager holodeck shenanigans here, I thought it was clever that the Neelix Cheese, which was dismissed as a bad Voyager mission, saves the day.

The climactic scenes with Mariner and Boimler are poignant, showing growth and comradery between the two over the years. Mariner's no longer holding Boimler back, and she in fact instills a confidence in him (an act that inadvertently gets herself promoted). This all works very well and is charming because not only do we not expect it, but Mariner doesn't want it.

Finally, the teaser action scene at the end kicks off an intriguing mystery. The ship that destroys the Klingons looks like one of those Future Federation time ships or maybe even the Tin Man. But it could be something completely different and off the canon script.

This earns a high 3 stars from me.
Latex Zebra
Thu, Sep 7, 2023, 3:56pm (UTC -5)
Solid three stars from me. Great to have this show back. Some proper chuckle moments and a fun story. Great to see the LD team getting their pips.
Jeffrey's Tube
Thu, Sep 7, 2023, 4:00pm (UTC -5)
I wanted to add, I really appreciated the level of attention to accuracy and detail with which they drew Voyager and the sets in this episode. It all looked perfect, right down to the very detailed lines on the open sensor ports on the hull. I've always found Voyager's design--inside and outside of the ship--to be the most beautiful in Star Trek.

@ Chase

I'm aware of the Ryan's Edits channel and I think it's pretty funny. I think verb-izing the episode title and using it like so to refer to this situation is natural in English and "Tuvixed" is the natural way that would be done, so I wouldn't assign any influence from or awareness of that channel by the writers based on this alone.
C.T. Phipps
Thu, Sep 7, 2023, 4:57pm (UTC -5)
T'Lynn said Boimler smelled.

Oh yeah, that's Vulcan for, "we're going to bang, Hooman."

Look at T'Pol and Trip.
C.T. Phipps
Fri, Sep 8, 2023, 2:09am (UTC -5)
Thinking about the original "Tuvix" moral dilemma.

I dunno, if we get the technology to eventually resurrect someone and it required someone else to die, then it gets thornier with the idea Neelix and Tuvok aren't there anymore. The ethical dilemma is not that they're not there anymore but they CAN be saved in the same way someone trapped in a pattern buffer or something would be.

I'm inclined to view this episode very differently from other show watchers, though, as I think the ethical dilemma here isn't nearly as unprecedented or weird as people make it out to be. I think that TOS and DS9 (more than TNG) made it clear that it is BASIC expectation of a Starfleet officer that you have to make questionably ethical life and death choices all the time.

Kobatashi Maru, anyone?

One of the earliest tests to see if Wesley Crusher had the stones (or whatever the nongendered version of it is in the 24th century) was whether or not he could leave a man to die to save someone else. VOY and ENT tried to softpedal this sort of thing (at least until ENT Season 3) but part of the reason Redshirts exist is because sometimes you have to send someone to die. Deana Troi did it to get her promotion.

To save two of her crew, Janeway had to let a random alien die. It's terrible but it's something I expect every Starfleet officer to do in this situation unless there's a greater good involved like the Prime Directive.

So I'm of the mind Captain Freeman would have straight up murdered him if she had to but sought a better option. I doubt she'd have found one, though.
Fri, Sep 8, 2023, 10:59am (UTC -5)

The issue that most people have a problem with are three-fold.

The first is not that Janeway "let" a random alien die, to save her crew, she kiled him. Wesley left a man to die, Deanna ordered an officer to die in an emergency (which he then did willingly to uphold his Starfeet oath, the red shirts are doing the dangerous job, sure... but that's not what happened here.

I see "Tuvix" as being similar to none of those episodes... but instead being similar to "The Enemy". Picard won't order Worf to GIVE BLOOD to possibly save the Enterprise and EVERYONE ON IT. Worf's bodily autonomy is so important they refuse to force him to undergo a minor medical procedure for the good of the ship/fleet. That says a lot about Starfleet values. You know what else says a lot about Starfleet values? That the AI programmed with Starfleet ethics refuses to perform the separation.

You talk about Deanna ordering fake Geordi to die for the greater good... but Geordi is a Starfleet officer. I'm not sure Tuvix is. And even if we consider him to be one... he could certainly resign his commission in refusal of such an order. And clearly would.

That's why Tuvix is still talked about. Janeways actions are blatantly against Starfleet ethics. Tuvix was more than capable of being their security chief. Voyager doesn't NEED Tuvok back. She killed a friend to save two friends. When Sisko committed an unethical act, it resulted in the death of a Romulan asshole to save the Alpha Quadrant. When Janeway did it....

Tuvix is an uncomfortable episode for a lot of reasons. I don't think every Starfleet captain would have done it. I'm positive Picard wouldn't have.
C.T. Phipps
Fri, Sep 8, 2023, 12:09pm (UTC -5)
[That's why Tuvix is still talked about. Janeways actions are blatantly against Starfleet ethics. Tuvix was more than capable of being their security chief. Voyager doesn't NEED Tuvok back. She killed a friend to save two friends. When Sisko committed an unethical act, it resulted in the death of a Romulan asshole to save the Alpha Quadrant. When Janeway did it....]

Janeway has an obligation to save her crew members and as long as she can, she should. Tuvix is not a Starfleet officer but if he is, which he was acting like, then sometimes they can be ordered to be sent to their deaths. If he's not, she has an obligation to save her crew members from a bad situation.

That's just my take at least.
OG Robert
Fri, Sep 8, 2023, 1:41pm (UTC -5)
[Janeway has an obligation to save her crew members and as long as she can, she should. Tuvix is not a Starfleet officer but if he is, which he was acting like, then sometimes they can be ordered to be sent to their deaths. If he's not, she has an obligation to save her crew members from a bad situation.]

I agree Starfleet officers can be ordered to their deaths.... however... you can refuse an order. And the punishment for refusing an order is not death.

After a court determined that Data was sentient, he was allowed to resign from Starfleet in order to not carry out a direct order. Being that Starfleet does not have a death penalty, that refusal to carry out an order cannot be met with death and that Tuvix could resign at any time.... this gets problematic. He did not follow the order and march to his death willingly. He was executed to save her friends.
Jeffrey's Tube
Fri, Sep 8, 2023, 3:20pm (UTC -5)
It's a more basic philosophical debate than you all are exploring, I feel.

From one perspective, Tuvok and Neelix are dead.

From another perspective, Tuvok and Neelix are not dead, but suffering a medical condition.

In the first perspective, Tuvix has the right of existence, because he is the one who currently exists, and to "resurrect" Tuvok and Neelix is to infringe upon his right to existence by ending it.

In the second persepctive, Tuvok and Neelix have the right of existence because they existed first and their existence is the "baseline state," and Tuvix's existence is actively infringing on each of their pre-existing, paramount rights to exist. It's unfortunate that it comes down to case of one vs. the others, but since it does, the others' rights to existence trump Tuvix's.

As far as I'm concerned, all other questions--duty, the needs of the ship being lost in the Delta Quadrant, etc.--are secondary considerations that are ultimately inconsequential to the ethical issue and likely did not have bearing on Janeway's decision, although the rationale for Janeway's decision is purposefully left somewhat opaque in the episode, leaving us as viewers to decide what did and did not factor in it, and how much.

. . .

And in case you're wondering, my personal opinion is the first perspective I listed: Tuvok and Neelix are dead while Tuvix exists, and thus Tuvix's right to existence trumps theirs as he is the one who currently exists. It is unfortunate, but people die, and it does not give you the right to kill other people to bring them back. Janeway made the ethically wrong decision, imo.

But the rationale behind her decision is as fully defensible an ethical position as my own.

And that's why we argue it all these years later.

And that's some good Trek.
OG Robert
Fri, Sep 8, 2023, 3:27pm (UTC -5)
[And that's why we argue it all these years later.

And that's some good Trek.]

Agree. For what it's worth I can see both sides for sure, the question for me is.... does Janeway even have the authority to do this? To order a sentient being be killed for any reason? I've never seen such a thing in any other Trek really.

I think Neelix and Tuvok are dead as well, but I think their Captain owes it to them to save them if she can. The question is... can she? What gives her the authority to perform a medical procedure on a sentient unwilling participant?

We had an entire trial to discuss if Data was sentient enough to refuse being dismantled and put back together. A trial that required somebody with more authority than Captain Picard.

I think people often talk past each other on this. Let's say you think Janeway is wrong, let's say you think she's right..... did she even have the right to make that call?
Jeffrey's Tube
Fri, Sep 8, 2023, 7:56pm (UTC -5)
@ OG Robert

Good question. I believe that Janeway does have the authority to decide the situation (whether Tuvok & Neelix's rights or Tuvix's rights are paramount) given that Voyager is stranded in the Delta Quadrant. Were that not the case, she indeed probably would not have been vested with the authority, necessitating legal proceedings involving a higher authority in the society before it could be resolved. But longstanding naval tradition (I won't say law as I'm no expert) affords the captain of a vessel wide latitude in authority when the ship is in the circumstances Voyager is in.

. . .

If we take the view that Neelix and Tuvok have the superseding right to exist, Janeway has their implied consent to perform lifesaving measures on them. Their consent is the paramount consideration, not Tuvix's. The burden of their consent for Janeway may even rise to the level of obligation, or duty on her part. I am less sure of this last statement, as I don't know if could instead be viewed as more akin to having "power of attorney," where she has agency in making the decision once she has decided the question of the state of things (i.e., once she has decided that Tuvok + Neelix's rights > Tuvix's). At any rate, having determined/decided that, she certainly has the RIGHT to decide to perform the medical procedure, though perhaps not the obligation to see it done.
C.T. Phipps
Fri, Sep 8, 2023, 9:16pm (UTC -5)
[And in case you're wondering, my personal opinion is the first perspective I listed: Tuvok and Neelix are dead while Tuvix exists, and thus Tuvix's right to existence trumps theirs as he is the one who currently exists. It is unfortunate, but people die, and it does not give you the right to kill other people to bring them back. Janeway made the ethically wrong decision, imo. ]

If you CAN bring people back then I think they don't fit any definition of dead that isn't covered by a resuscitation order. Killing Tuvix so they can live is no different from rerouting oxygen from one room to another to save more lives.
Dahj’s Digital Ghost
Fri, Sep 8, 2023, 10:19pm (UTC -5)
Janeway not only “straight up murdered” Tuvix, but flat out genocided the entire Vulaxian species.

There are more than two possible states of being than those posited above. A third is that Tuvix is a sapient amalgamated being, and that his will is the will of his constituents.

When Tuvix expresses his will to live, he is expressing the will of Tuvok and Neelix to continue their existence in their present form.
Erehwon Clinic Survivor
Sun, Sep 10, 2023, 7:33am (UTC -5)
Boy they sure took the chance to kick the usual Lower Decks-style "member this?" pandering into hyperfocused overdrive. Not that I didn't enjoy the episode, even if the resolution was easy and predictable. Also something about the artstyle makes it look to me like T'Lyn is constantly smiling when she talks (except when she's frowning, like at the end.)
Sun, Sep 10, 2023, 4:30pm (UTC -5)
Still, just a SNL skit.
Wed, Sep 13, 2023, 10:17am (UTC -5)
Hands down my favorite episide so far.

They could've done the bare minimum with the fan service by just slapping the references in, but they went all out and *used* every cameo and reference. The Tuvix army, the Borg Macrocosm, using Neelix's cheese to break Voyager, Chaotica teaming up with the Clown, Sullivan and the Threshold lizards, it was a perfect storm!

The Borg Macrocosm was unironically awesome, and I'm more disappointed than ever that the Borg only assimilated humanoids.
Other Chris
Thu, Sep 14, 2023, 7:33am (UTC -5)
Hoo, boy. I gave up on the show very early on and checked into this episode because I'm a Voyager fan.

It really is just a checklist of references, isn't it? I couldn't even finish it. Is this what's considered "good" these days? Just playing the hits?
Mon, Sep 18, 2023, 10:38pm (UTC -5)
Other Chris,

It's a sitcom cartoon. Discovery's constant retconning and ramming of references down the audience's eyes is far more distasteful.

Submit a comment

I agree to the terms of use

◄ Season Index

▲Top of Page | Menu | Copyright © 1994-2023 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication or distribution of any content is prohibited. This site is an independent publication and is not affiliated with or authorized by any entity or company referenced herein. Terms of use.