Seein’ your officers: Star Trek: Lower Decks “wej Duj”

The title card of this week’s episode is written in the Klingon alphabet. Paramount+ helpfully transliterates the title on its menu as “wej Duj”. Oh, it says wej Duj, of course, how helpful.

Just a heads-up, there are five ships in this episode.

This week, the Cerritos is on a long warp through a vacant stretch of space to their next assignment, and the captain has given most of the crew the day off. Boimler hits up his friends at breakfast to arrange some fun activities, but all the deckies seem to be spending the day hanging out with the senior officers of their respective shirt colors: Tendi’s doing holodeck stuff with T’Ana, Rutherford’s cooking soup with Billups and throwing pottery with Shaxs, and Mariner is [ugh] hanging out with her mother.

Boimler, characteristically, expresses envy that all this social time with the senior officers is going to help everyone get promotions but him. “Perhaps it’s your nakedly transactional view of relationships that stymies your ability to operate effectively in a social organism,” suggests nobody. Tendi says he should try to make a new friend, but Boimler’s social skills are lacking, to put it mildly.

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“I wish I served on a ship with a built-in social structure, like with Bynars, or Klingons,” Boimler transitions awkwardly.  “Have you ever actually been on a Klingon ship?” Mariner asks. “I don’t think you’d like it.”

“What would it be like to serve on a Klingon ship?” [piano intro] “Well, I think it’d go a little something like this…”

We cut to the Klingon Bird-of-Prey Che’Ta’.

Named after the great Klingon hero Che’Ta’, son of Ches’Tar.

…and their respective lower decks. Four lower-decks Klingons rise out of their rope hammocks and talk about their upcoming day. The female Klingon is grumbling about having to scrape out the gagh barrels. One of the male ones is talking about how he wants to kill a “Commander Togg” who’s been undermining the captain, so he’ll be the next logical choice to ascend to first mate. “Logical?” jeers the female. “Are you a Vulcan now? Maybe you should trim your bangs and join a science vessel!”

“Haw haw! Why don’t you join a HUMAN starship, and NOT constantly get drunk on duty, and always leave the guy commanding your ship alive!”

After that even awkwarder transition, the show cuts to the Vulcan science vessel Sh’Vhal:

Vulcan for “simple to pronounce”.

…to introduce four more unremarkable new characters that the show will cut away from before we have them straight in our heads.  Of the titular “three ships” (five, really) we’re peeking in on today, this is the only one with a coherent premise, which is “how does the most logical and orderly race in the galaxy handle workplace conflict?” One of the Vulcans is butting heads extremely logically with her lower-decks crewmates over her slight deviation from her mission parameters, in the form of a new scanning algorithm she implemented. She tries to couch her project in logical terms, but can’t help but utter the words “something feels off” in her argumentation.

Having uttered the no-no words, our unnamed Vulcan completely loses the respect of the other three unnamed Vulcan deckies. You can tell they’re super pissed because of the way they arch their eyebrows.

“It would be logical to cut your hair so that it stays off your ears, but in your willfulness you employ a superfluous hair accessory to achieve the same result.”

Back on the Che’Ta’, the guy who was planning to throw Commander Togg under the bus to get a promotion reports to the bridge to find Togg already in a knife fight with the captain. Togg is swiftly gutted and killed, and the captain promises first mate-ship to whoever impresses him the most today.

Our guy gets a jump on things by volunteering to clean up the body. He drags Togg’s corpse offscreen slowly, making grunts because the body’s heavy. That’s a joke?

“There’s no good way to get off this bridge. Do we need these load-bearing pillars right here in my way? I guess that’s what we get for having a society with 7 billion warriors and four architects.”

Back on the Cerritos, Boimler tries to find a higher-ranking officer to schmooze with. He tries to get in Lt. Kayshon’s good graces with the small bit of the Tamarian language he learned at the Academy, but utters the wrong mythological allusion and tells Kayshon he looks fat. Next, Boimler reports to Shax’s pottery class and tries to poach Rutherford’s officer buddy. He flatters Shax’s pottery skills, asking, “Did you learn to do that on Bajor?” which makes Shaxs incandescent with rage. “You think I had time for anything but resisting? Fighting fascism is a full-time job!”

“This earring does NOT look ‘gay’! It’s part of Bajoran culture! And that goes for the frilly panties too!”

Switch back to the Che’Ta’, where our guy’s attempt to suck up to the captain is stymied by an elderly officer headbutting him and demanding more bloodwine. On the  Sh’vhal, our gal is trying to convince her captain that it was logical to do what she did. Any chance we could find out these crewmen’s names? I refuse to just check online; this is your job, show.

Her captain’s extremely polite disapproval notwithstanding, Vulcan Lady argues in favor of changing the ship’s heading slightly to investigate a phenomenon her new sensor algorithm discovered. “The energy originated in a region which has never experienced a comparable phenomenon. To ignore it would be illogical.” The Vulcan captain modifies the ship’s heading. Nevertheless, he extremely calmly tells her off for ignoring the chain of command and orders her to meditate silently for two days. They have a logical and polite argument about it.

“You call my hairband ‘illogical’. Yet you yourself maintain an ornamental growth of facial hair which serves no function and must be continually maintained. Curious.”

On the Cerritos, the guy whose name we do know tries to crash Tendi’s and T’Ana’s rock-climbing holoprogram on rocket boots, but the rocket boots fail, of course, and he makes an undignified fall into a tree. No joke; he just gets hurt.

Since crashing one holo-program worked so well, Boimler decides to intrude on Mariner and Freeman’s target practice. They’re having a knock-down drag-out argument because Freeman, claiming she was following protocol to keep senior officers abreast of medical issues that could affect crew performance, told Billups about Mariner’s debilitating menstrual cramps.  Ha ha ha! Periods!” Billups doesn’t need to know!” Mariner protests. “He’s not good with that stuff, it freaks him out!”

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“If I had to dance around everything that freaks Billups out, I’d never get anything done!” shoots back Freeman. Holy shit, a funny line? Better get out of here real quick!

“Bet you can’t hit one holding your phaser gangsta style!”

Boimler’s about to sadly give up in defeat, when he runs into a senior officer in the turbolift he didn’t think of before: Commander Ransom. He stumbles into a conversation about Hawaii, and discovers that Ransom and the other two people in the turbolift all grew up in Hawaii… even the Benzite guy who can’t even breathe Earth’s atmosphere. Sure, that makes sense.  Everyone assumes Boimler must be from Hawaii also, so a delighted Ransom offers to take him on a Hawaiian holoprogram later.

On the Che’Ta’, Mr. Klingon has fetched more bloodwine for his captain, and his next task is to walk his pet targ, who’s eaten the corpse’s leg and needs to poop. On the Sh’Vhal, our Vulcan protagonist, who’s name we finally find out is T’Lyn—cool, do the Klingon next, or don’t; doesn’t matter—is working on another independent project while she’s supposed to be meditating. The other Vulcan deckies come in and very reservedly tell her off for this, threatening to tell the High Command about her “relaxed attitude” and quarreling about as vociferously as Vulcans can about how “out of control” she is.

“I figuratively request that you fellate me.”

Then we’re back on the Cerritos, where Rutherford and Tendi are advising Boimler not to keep up an unsustainable lie about his past that’s just going to blow up in his face. “What’s more important, having a commander friend, or being true to yourself?” Of course, Boimler picks the latter.

“Ouch! Welp, sunburned already.”

Meanwhile, our Klingon guy is walking the captain’s targ back to his quarters after taking him on an “honorable movement”, and finds the captain ruminating about how Klingons have lost all their warrior spirit, as Klingons are wont to do. Our guy agrees with everything he says, and thus finds himself promoted to first mate.

A Pakled ship then hails the captain, asking, “Are you ready to give us presents now?” The Klingon captain pledges to beam over with his new first officer to give these gifts in person.

Dudeman asks his captain why they’re giving gifts to the Pakleds, and the captain reveals that he’s the mysterious puppet master manipulating the Pakleds all season to make war on the Federation, thus destabilizing the quadrant and allowing a foothold for the Empire. Our guy muses that direct confrontation is the Klingon way, and that Klingons have never stirred up proxy wars before (well, if you don’t count the many times they did exactly that on the original series). “Which is exactly why the Federation has no idea who’s manipulating them!” declares the captain.

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Mariner is in Freeman’s quarters playing Clue (“You always pick the chef!” “Yeah, cause we have replicators! Why would there be a chef? That’s just shady!”) when the game is mercifully interrupted by the bridge telling the captain about some anomalous radiation readings. Freeman orders the ship to drop out of warp to investigate.

Meanwhile, the Klingons have beamed over to the Pakleds, who want another bomb to use against the Federation, because they blew theirs up and don’t seem to understand that bombs can only be used once. Protagonist Klingon tells his captain that the bomb’s detonation created radiation that other ships will likely detect.

“Look at this picture I drew on the wall! It’s a bunny!”

Freeman assumes the Pakleds are getting ready to attack the Klingons and hails them, asking if they need help. Rather than seizing on this misapprehension to gain the upper hand, the Klingon captain stupidly orders his ship to power up weapons. The Pakled and Klingon ships both fire on the Cerritos.  The caught-off-guard crew runs to the bridge still dressed in their costumes from the many holodeck adventures they were having.

Apparently there were two people cosplaying as Crusher and Troi in their workout clothes? What a normal thing to do. This is such a normal ship.

The Hawaiians are trapped in a caved-in hallway on Deck 6, and Boimler uses the threat of impending death to confess that he’s not from Hawaii. He’s instead from Modesto, California. Everyone else, Ransom included, gradually admits they’re not from Hawaii either, and only said that to look cool. Ransom and the woman are from the Moon, and the Benzarite is from a moon of Benzar. They bond over this instead, and Boimler is once again left out. Whomp whomp.

“Hit the road, Atmosphere Boy! Widdle Baby Needs-To-Breathe!”

Protagonist Klingon butts heads with the captain he’s sworn to suck up to, because he doesn’t believe it’s honorable to let other species fight Klingon battles. And because this episode wasn’t unwieldy enough yet, we cut to the Pakled “clumpship” to find out what life is like for the Pakled’s lower decks.

“Pakled” is Pakled for “dumb gag thoroughly run into the ground.”

This consists of one Pakled saying “I’m hungry”, to which one responds, “You should eat.” “You are smart,” says the first Pakled. Wow, way worth it.

The Cerritos is about to go down in flames when who should show up but the Vulcan ship Sh’Vhal, having detected the explosion thanks to the un-Vulcan instincts of T’Lyn.

That unnamed Klingon finally decides to violently remove his captain from command. He proves surprisingly adept in combat, but the larger and meaner captain has him overpowered… until the captain’s unruly targ bites him, giving our dude an opening to shove a mek’leth in his guts.  Having promoted himself to captain, our still not-named mini-protagonist steers the ship away from the fight.

Good thing the captain got stabbed to death, because this guy is definitely not up on his shots.

The Pakled ship is still firing on the Sh’Vhal.  T’Lyn interrupts the captain’s very serene combat maneuvers with a new project she’s worked out in her spare time: a multiphasic adaptive shield generator. It hasn’t been tested, but those pesky “instincts” of hers indicate that it will work. Seeing no alternative, the captain calmly orders it implemented. It works and they drive the Pakled ship away.

“Stop firing the thing that goes ‘reeuuuuuuuun!” Fire the ‘tew tew tew’ cannons!”

After conferring with the Cerritos, the captain calls T’Lyn into his quarters. He says that, while he and everyone else on the ship owes a debt of gratitude to T’Lyn and her crazy-ass emotions, this un-Vulcan behavior of hers cannot be allowed to continue. He has reassigned her to a Starfleet ship, believing her “hot-headedness” makes her a better fit to serve with humans. “Captain, I ask you to reconsider,” T’Lyn says calmly, “I do not believe this punishment is warranted.”

“And that is exactly the type of outburst which led to my decision,” says the captain.

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Later on in the Cerritos bar, Boimler laments his inability to make any friends among the officers. Suddenly, a dorky, Wesleyesque cadet approaches him, apologizing profusely. He says that Cmdr. Ransom identified Boimler as the most organized officer on the ship and directed him this way for pointers. Boimler locks eyes with Ransom and nods, before launching into a soliloquy about rules and tidiness and all his favorite things.

“Your face rings a bell. Are you one of Tom Paris’s bastards?”

Finally, desperate to squeeze one last drop out of the “Lower Decks on Other Kinds of Ship” gag, the writers cut to the lower decks of a Borg cube.

Wait a minute, the Borg don’t have lower decks! They don’t have ranks! And what is this, just a bunch of identical rows of regeneration pods? Ha ha! That took an unexpected turn, goodness me.

Next episode: Thanks to a technicality in the Klingon honor code, the targ becomes captain. Billups thanks Freeman for informing him about Mariner’s cramps, as he had otherwise assumed she just really sucked at her job.

TV Show: Star Trek: Lower Decks

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