Sep 11, 2020
Star Trek: Lower Decks “Crisis Point”
This week on Star Trek: Lower Decks: Ow, it hurts. Owww, mommy it hurts.
Mariner is on a planet with a species of lizard people and a species of rat-like people who are oppressing the lizards and eating them as food. A war of liberation has just broken out on the planet, as represented by Mariner in a Starfleet ATV helping to pull down a rat statue.
They have a rat person in manacles. Mariner taunts him with her promises of the captain’s righteous retribution. Captain Freeman beams down, but instead of congratulating Mariner, she orders the rat freed and starts telling Mariner off for her many Prime Directive violations. Mariner smashes Freeman’s PADD angrily. Freeman promises her daughter dire consequences. Not the brig this time—therapy.
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“Dr. Migleemo?” shouts Mariner, aghast. “He’s the worst counselor in the fleet! He just tosses out nonstop food metaphors!” She beams up still shouting. Dr. Migleemo turns out to be from a bird-like species, and instead of a Starfleet uniform, he wears a
skimpy leotard with lots of cleavage tweed jacket. He’s voiced by a criminally underutilized Paul F. Tompkins. They’ve already committed to the food metaphors bit, and it takes them about 20 seconds to exhaust all the riffs on that premise, finally giving up and cutting to the holodeck.
Our boresome foursome is skeet-shooting with a holographic Leonardo da Vinci when Boimler asks if he might take over the holodeck. He’s angling for a spot in Captain Freeman’s diplomacy seminar and wants to prepare so as to brownnose more effectively. He activates a holoprogram he wrote in which he recreates the personalities of the entire Cerritos crew from private log entries. (“Aren’t those private?” asks Rutherford.) He explains that the characters should respond exactly how their corporeal counterparts do. (Lieutenant Shaxs: “Don’t talk to me! I’m pissed off!”)
Mariner gets a wonderful grinchy idea, and rushes over to the arch to add some code. After ten or twenty keystrokes, Mariner has turned Boimler’s simulation into a movie. “You say I need therapy?” she asks. “Fine, I’ll go to therapy.” She hits the enter key and soon everyone’s jumping out of the way of the swooping title card reading Crisis Point: Rise of Vindicta and a series of credits. (For the remainder of the “movie”, we’ll be watching in letterbox format—it’s an okay gag, but I don’t know how it’s supposed to work in the context of a holodeck.)
Boimler objects mightily. Mariner reassures him he won’t make the final cut: “You were kind of a Xon, to be honest.” (Ah, breaking the fourth wall: the lazy comedy writer’s handiest weapon!)
The “movie” opens on a Starfleet command retreat on Lake Kabba. All the Cerritos senior officers are riding jet skis. Check that, “hydroscoots”. Boimler noses up on a “scoot” to ask the captain whether she prefers when officers arrive early or stay late. And if these guys are really programmed to respond how they would in real life, wouldn’t they ask what the hell he’s doing here?
Suddenly, they get a message from a space station, where an admiral tells them there’s a mysterious ship traveling around impersonating a Starfleet vessel called the San Clemente. The Cerritos is deployed to investigate. “If this was actually happening, they’d send the Enterprise, but, y’know, artistic license,” Boimler says knowingly.
We’re treated to a really, really long scene of the senior officers admiring the Cerritos in dry-dock a la Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Hope you saw that one!
“She never fails to take my breath away,” says Freeman. “I wish I could kiss her and squeeze her,” says Boimler. When they get on the bridge, everything’s desaturated and there are lens flares everywhere, recalling the reboot films. The ship goes to warp with a big, dramatic electrical discharge effect from the nacelles.
The ship drops out of warp around the planet Idlocana VI. Boimler remarks that the planet’s selenium rings are disrupting the sensors. Literally the very next line, Shaxs detects a ship decloaking. Sigh. The ship resembles a Klingon Bird-of-Prey. The viewscreen lights up with a picture of Mariner on a throne, with a villainous space-pirate uniform and villainous eye makeup and a villainous laugh.
She introduces herself as “Vindicta, vengeance personified,” and announces her intention to bathe in the captain’s blood. Tendi and Rutherford are playing an Orion pirate queen and a murderous cyborg respectively. There’s also “Shempo”, a character she scribbled in last-minute because Boimler didn’t want to play him.
“Why are you impersonating Starfleet?” asks Freeman. “Because I do what I want! Ugh, you’re such a jerk!” squeals “Vindicta”. In a fit of pique, Mariner vaporizes Shempo for fetching her the wrong drink. Soon, a landing shuttle detaches from her ship and lasers its way into the Cerritos while Mariner distracts the crew with a recording of her quoting The Tempest. Mariner, Tendi, and Rutherford step off the shuttle and blast their way through a hallway of their holographic crew members.
Rutherford remembers that Lt. Billups’s holo-double is on this ship, and the temptation to go give him a piece of his mind is too much, so he runs away. Tendi tries to get him to stay but Mariner encourages her to “pirate it up, take some slaves”. Tendi is uncomfortable with Mariner’s willingness to indulge in ugly stereotypes about Orions.
Commander Ransom’s holo-double takes a phaser bolt from Mariner. Boimler rushes up and tries to get some information about what cookies he should bake for the captain. “Cookies are a good move; cap’n’s got a sweet tooth,” says Ransom, “but watch out! She’s allergic to—” and then he takes another bolt and disintegrates.
Rutherford finds Billups and lets loose with something he’s wanted to say for a long time: “You are the best engineer in the fleet! I love how you program subroutines.” He comes up with a Treknobabble solution to filter out the poisonous gases that are slowly filling the engineering department. “Wow,” says Billups, “for a random space marauder you sure know your way around a starship!”
Mariner and Tendi, meanwhile, are assaulting the mess hall, where Shaxs has barricaded himself inside with a comically large rifle. Mariner whips out a Borg’s decapitated head and uses its energy shielding to deflect the blast, then throws the head into Shaxs’s hands and it blows up in a sequence reminiscent of Total Recall. Come on guys, you can’t have run out of Trek references already. Now you’re going to start referencing other properties?
Mariner’s insistence that Tendi “loot” Shaxs’s magic Bajoran earring (with part of his ear still attached) pushes Tendi over the edge, and she yells at Mariner for her cultural insensitivity. “Many Orions haven’t been pirates for over five years!” She says the degree to which Mariner is relishing all the killing and torturing isn’t healthy, and she leaves the holodeck in a huff.
Mariner shoots her way to the deck and has a standoff with Captain Mommy. After some truly painful psychoanalytical dialogue, Mariner blows up her ship’s warp core and the resulting explosion pitches the Cerritos out of the sky. It crashes into the planet Star Trek: Generations style and tumbles down a mountain, losing both nacelles, and the saucer section rolls for a while and falls over.
The ship’s computer helpfully informs the crew that it crashed. Billups worries about his crewmembers, but Rutherford says he initiated a rapid beaming sequence to get everybody out. That doesn’t really exist, but as Rutherford notes, it’s a movie.
Mariner and Freeman are having a hand-to-hand fight in a wrecked hallway. Soon, Mariner’s got her trapped under her boot and is about to run her through with a pointy rod, when who should show up but… Mariner II: This Time She’s a Hologram! “Get off my mom, you bitch,” holo-Mariner says, in a possible nod to Aliens. She emergency-beams her mom out like Data did to Picard in Nemesis and confronts the horrible Vindicta.
The fight commences. But “Vindicta”, of course, has personal insights into Mariner, knows all her moves, and knows everything about her. They’re evenly matched. Vindicta taunts Mariner with creepy intimate details. “You only break rules because that’s what everyone expects you to do,” taunts Vindicta. “If you were a badass, you’d to the hard thing and just be a good officer.” She then pushes her other self down a ledge to her death.
Outside, the survivors are milling about. Billups has grown quite fond of this handsome robotic marauder who has inexplicably saved everyone, and suggests running away and getting a ship of their own so they can flibble the antimatter quomp-mass gorkles whenever they want. (Wait, are we still sticking with the conceit that these characters will respond exactly how their real counterparts will? Hoo boy.) Boimler, meanwhile, has baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies (surely no one will ask where Boimler got fresh chocolate chip cookies when the ship is literally totaled) and offers them to the captain, but Jet, the handsome lieutenant from “Cupid’s Errant Arrow” tackles him, saying the captain is allergic to chocolate and Boimler must be an assassin. But Jet doesn’t even serve on the Cerritos! Gah!
Meanwhile, Mariner is, as it turns out, not quite dead yet after all, so we have to sit through more of this crap. “I may hate protocol, but I don’t hate the ship,” she says. “I work with my best friends. My mom is the captain. I would do anything for her. She’s watching out for me the only way she knows how, in a fucked-up, overbearing mom way.”
“The only person you care about is yourself!” says “Vindicta”. “Oh yeah?” Mariner chuckles. “Then why did I let you kick my ass to buy time for everyone to get off the ship before the self-destruct timer went off?”
She’s right. The self-destruct timer has been counting down, and through sheer luck, the computer voice that would normally announce the countdown has fallen asleep on the job. The ship explodes. The simulation dissipates. Boimler, currently falling through the air after getting thrown off a cliff by Jet, thumps harmlessly on the floor. Mariner is hit with the revelation that she actually likes working on the Cerritos, loves her mom, and therapy works.
Later, Boimler dashes into the holodeck one last time to find out what he should wear to his interview with Freeman. But when he starts up the program again, holo-Freeman is eulogizing holo-Mariner. In her speech, she reveals that Mariner was her daughter. “It’s a secret we didn’t want anyone to know. If someone had found out… I don’t know what I would have done. Kicked them off the ship, probably, or court-martialed them out of Starfleet.” This horrible secret shakes Boimler up so much that he bombs his interview for lack of chill.
Cut to the surface of the planet. We see a scene of Vindicta climbing out of a space coffin. They were so horny to make a Wrath of Khan reference they forgot that Vindicta wasn’t even in a space coffin when the ship blew up. Come to think of it, she shouldn’t even be in the program anymore! She’s not a hologram! Ergh. It hurts so much! Vindicta is immediately blown away by a shotgun-wielding Leonardo da Vinci, and at least that’s kind of funny.
Then they cut to the credits, and each of the movie’s “performers” is signing their names like at the end of Star Trek VI. They don’t even bother to make their signatures look different from each other.
Next week: Mariner has to go to alien sensitivity training. The rat and lizard people are invaded by snake people and all eaten. Vindicta gets optioned for three sequels, a prequel, and a spin-off series on Disney+.