Aug 10, 2021
Shaxs and awe: Star Trek: Lower Decks “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris”
This episode opens in the galley, where the recently-created Boimler 2 is ready to retake his undignified place as the ship’s Charlie Brown-esque whipping boy.
Ransom explains to him that security measures have been tightened up in the wake of the Pakled attacks, and right on schedule, the replicator doesn’t recognize Boimler Jr.’s voice anymore and won’t give the hungry man any food. It finally replicates a bonsai tree after he begs for it to give him “anything”. (Canon! Canon! Living things can’t be replicated! It may not make sense, but it’s canon!)
Meanwhile, Tendi’s getting an early start on her day after, because as she explains to Rutherford, an untalented colleague of hers got promoted simply for having the right hypospray to fix a horrible space disease the captain got. Rutherford tries to console her and tell her she’ll make it eventually, but he’s distracted by seeing Shaxs at the replicator. Shaxs, if you remember, died saving Rutherford’s life at the end of “No Small Parts”.
Everyone else is nonplussed about this development, saying “bridge officers come back from the dead all the time,” but Rutherford is very much plussed.
After the credits, Boimler-B comes rushing into the room (after navigating the door that won’t open for him) to excitedly babble about meeting the famed Delta Quadrant explorer, transwarp barrier breaker, and bestselling holoprogram author Tom Paris.
He’s got a plate which needs his autograph, to complete his collection of Voyager bridge crew autographs. And he calls Voyager “VOY” as a riff on how the show is abbreviated on Memory Alpha. A thousand groans.
So that’s the thing Boimler-Squared is doing this episode. As for Rutherford, he’s going to get to the bottom of the mystery of Shaxs coming back from the dead, even after Mariner lists a long series of ways people have come back from the dead on Star Trek—Mirror universe, time travel, lifeform with miraculous properties, benevolent space god, etc.—to assure him that this is by no means unheard of, and really should be left a private matter if Shaxs isn’t forthcoming about it.
Meanwhile, a severely agitated, more-disheveled-than-usual Dr. T’Ana gives Tendi a secret mission to pick up a family heirloom, and Tendi asks Mariner to come with, purely because the two girls haven’t gone on a mission together yet.
Extra Boimler’s on his way to see Tom Paris, but the doors are acting up. Refusing Lt. Jett’s request to “carry him through the threshold like a bride”, he angrily decides to go via the Jeffries tubes instead. Oh, good! Jeffries tube humor! I hope they make some joke about how they’re never the same size twice.
Down on the planet Qualor II, Tendi fetches the heirloom from the storage unit while bonding with Mariner over Klingon acid-punk music. The heirloom turns out to be coffin-sized and heavy, and Mariner suggests sneaking a surreptitious peek, in the spirit of a “girls’ trip”. It turns out to be a huge wooden figure, roughly the same size and shape as Dr. T’Ana’s species, which Tendi identifies as a “Caitian Libido Post”, which Caitians use to work out their sexual urges during a yearly period of high hormonal activity. And don’t worry, Tendi doesn’t fail to point out that it’s similar to Vulcans going through pon farr.
Mariner gets grossed out thinking of the generations of cat people who have marked up this post. She drops it, breaking the post’s head off. Tendi freaks out, but Mariner assures her she knows a guy who can fix it.
Later, while Rutherford is working in engineering, Shaxs comes in to talk to Billups about playing racquetball later. He alludes cryptically to “that place” he was in while presumed dead and/or actually dead. Rutherford overhears, but gets the cold shoulder. But then an Ensign Cody straight up asks Shaxs how he came back to life, causing Shaxs to break down in tears and Cody to be reassigned without ceremony.
Mariner and Tendi check in with Mariner’s guy at the Starbase Earhart. He wants 50 strips of latinum to fix the post. Mariner hustles some Nausicaans at dom-jot to earn the money. Wait a minute… Starbase Earhart… Nausicaans… dom-jot… someone’s going to get into a fight, stabbed through the heart, and later look back on it as one of the key formative experiences of their life! Except no, the broken statue just gets broken even further by the Nausicaans. Oh well, it was either that or come up with something new happening.
On the bridge, Tom Paris (guest star Robert Duncan McNeill, who seems to have forgotten how to do Tom Paris’s voice, or just doesn’t care enough) accepts Captain Freeman’s offer to test out the engines. Backup Boimler, alas, has followed the Jeffries tubes to the gravimetric static diffusers, and since the computer doesn’t recognize that there’s anyone in here, Boimler’s Copy nearly gets roasted alive when the static gets purged.
Meanwhile, since she’s out of options, Tendi decides to check in on some of her “bad Orion” cousins in a thieves’ den. They’d kill Mariner on the spot, so she gets her skin greened and goes undercover. (“Honestly, this feels wrong. Just don’t take any pictures of me.”)
Tendi turns out to have a lot of clout among these pirate and thief types, and her hot art-forger cousin kisses her feet and addresses her as “Mistress of the Winter Constellations”. Mariner didn’t know anything about this side of Tendi, and wants her to do this kind of thing on the Cerritos, which she’s uncomfortable with, and they get in a big fight over how little Mariner knows about Tendi. Suddenly, Mariner begins turning human-colored again, and forward ho with the angry mob.
The Artist Formerly Known As Boimler is cackling in victory, nearly through the Jeffries tubes to the bridge, when the Cerritos finally detects an intruder and panels close in front of and behind him. He breaks down in despair, but his hero Tom Paris speaks to him from the commemorative plate he’s carrying, and gives him words of encouragement. Boimler Part Deux opens up a panel, releasing some noxious fumes, and giggles madly as he works toward a solution.
Tendi and Mariner are in a tough spot of their own as they climb up steel elevator cables to get away from the mob. They’ve got the post slung over both of their backs, which causes it to eventually break in half, with each of them carrying half. Tendi pulls her half with her as she climbs through an elevator doorway. Mariner’s still got hers, but after her cable is severed, she’s left with Tendi grasping one hand and the other hand holding the dangling post. Tendi convinces her to drop it so she can save Mariner. They only barely get back to their shuttle in time to escape.
Unable to take it any longer, Rutherford finally corners Shaxs in a turbolift and begs to know how he came back from the dead, because he feels really guilty that Shaxs died saving his life. Shaxs says he’s not at liberty to divulge, not because of Rutherford’s rank, but because knowing the mysteries of death would change Rutherford forever. Rutherford says that’s okay, so Shaxs launches into a mindblowing tale of the “black mountain” where you appear after you die, and the three versions of your father you have to fight.
Around this time, a dirty and shirtless Boimler Redux is busy dying in the fume-filled Jeffries tube, having failed to find a way free. Utterly dejected, and on his last few minutes of breathable air, he jams his commemorative Tom Paris plate into the open circuit panel, which causes a short and ejects the floor from under him. Boimler-Beta lands right in the middle of the bridge. He tries to fanboy over Paris, but his filthy appearance makes him look like a Kazon and Paris tackles him instead.
The girls’ trip is coming to an inauspicious end with the precious post lying in splinters in its crate. Mariner apologizes, and Tendi announces her intention to take full blame for the statue’s destruction. Mariner refuses to allow this, and formulates a new plan that involves piloting the shuttle on a crash course into the Cerritos. The bridge crew notices this while Paris is still whooping on Boimler, and the shuttle zooms into the Cerritos in a shot that recalls the time Kes did this to Voyager during one of Voyager’s many alternate timelines. But instead of smashing through the hull, the shuttle bounces harmlessly off the deflector shield.
We’re at the hugging-and-learning part of the episode now. Mariner blames the crash on a bee that got into the shuttle. Ransom doesn’t believe her, and sends her to the brig. Tendi apologizes profusely for breaking the post, but it turned out that Dr. T’Ana… just wanted the crate to play in. Because cats are gonna cat.
Tendi visits Mariner in the brig to play her some acid-punk albums, Rutherford has glimpsed a vision of the great horrid Beyond, and Boimler has a black eye from Lt. Paris that he treasures even more than his autograph. Haha! Weird!
Next episode: Boimler abandons his quest for autographs in favor of getting beaten up by all the regulars from Deep Space Nine.