Sep 25, 2020
Star Trek: Lower Decks “No Small Parts”
Previously on Star Trek: Lower Decks: Boimler found out that Mariner was Captain Fletcher’s daughter, a secret that both had kept under lock and key. This brings the show dangerously close to having a consequential plot development, and the writers have to do some serious scrambling to avoid it.
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Ransom logs about the Cerritos returning to the planet Beta III, home of the species from the TOS episode “Return of the Archons”. Since Kirk and Spock (represented on Ransom’s PADD, drawn in TAS style) visited the planet over 100 years ago, they’ve since returned to worshipping the malevolent supercomputer Landru and suppressing their individuality and creativity. Freeman exasperatedly sticks a “Do Not Obey” sign on Landru, gives the natives a stern talking-to, and she and Ransom beam back up.
To no one’s surprise, Mariner is still down on the planet, handing out art supplies to promote creativity on Beta III. To some people’s surprise, Boimler joins her after stripping off his uniform shirt. He’s no longer worried about having to choose between following the rules and doing what’s right, he says, because he has an ace in the hole to avoid trouble.
He reveals that he knows Mariner is Freeman’s daughter. Mariner gets furious and threatens him but he won’t back down. Unfortunately for Boimler, Ransom is trying to call him from the combadge on his shirt a short distance away, and the whole bridge crew can overhear Mariner’s and Boimler’s conversation. I thought you had to tap the badge before it would broadcast? Whatever. Everyone finds out Mariner’s dirty secret from Boimler’s surreptitiously broadcast taunts, and Freeman, furious, beams them both directly to the bridge.
After the credits, we cut to the USS Solvang, a brand-new ship that, like the Cerritos, the Rubidoux, and the San Clemente, are all named after southern California suburbs. It’s manned by the former captain and crew of the Rubidoux, which was destroyed back in “Much Ado About Boimler”. The ship is so new the plastic film is still on the captain’s weapons panel. Without warning, a ship jumps out of warp near the ship and starts blasting. The attacking ship has several distinct colored sections like something out of Power Rangers. Shields drain quickly. A mechanical grappler shoots out and grabs one of the nacelles just as the Solvang is about to jump to warp. The ship is pulled apart and totally destroyed.
Sometime afterward, Tendi has now served on the ship long enough to sign up to be a liaison to a new crew member, and that’s what she’s gone and done. Her new recruit is Ensign Peanut Hamper, one of the goofy “exocomps” from TNG’s “The Quality of Life”, which are now recognized as sentient creatures, speak English, and can go to Starfleet Academy. Peanut Hamper chose its name after mathematically analyzing all Federation languages and determining it to be most ear-pleasing.
Rutherford, meanwhile, is fiddling with a knob on the side of his head, which literally adjusts his attitude. He accidentally pulls the knob off, and it turns out there’s a little button in the space where the knob was. Sure. Why not. By pressing this button, Rutherford can cycle through different personality modes, like “Extremely Optimistic Mode”, “Sexy Mode”, and “British Mode”.
The ship at large is having trouble adjusting to the bombshell that Mariner is Freeman’s daughter. People are now trying to suck up to Mariner, do her favors, and use her to pass messages, recommendation letters, and advice to the captain. This includes Boimler, who’s trying to get Mariner to sign a recommendation letter so he can be promoted to the USS Sacramento. Mariner decides she’ll get away from all this newfound attention by applying for the promotion herself, and starts straightening up her act by rolling down her uniform sleeves as per regulation.
Meanwhile, Tendi is feeling protective of Peanut Hamper, and wonders how she’ll be able to perform her duties if she doesn’t have any hands. To her chagrin, Peanut Hamper can replicate any tool she needs, and can do Tendi’s job better than she can. Still, Tendi is determined to make this new recruit feel welcome.
The Cerritos comes upon the wreckage of the Solvang. The Megazord is harvesting the parts with its magnetic grabbers. The ship then lights up the Cerritos with several different colors of energy blast.
The Megazord fixes the Cerritos with both a tractor beam and grabbers. Freeman, unlike her colleague floating around somewhere out there, does not panic and go to warp, but shuts down the engines despite Ransom’s energetic protests. They finally get on the communicator with someone, and it’s… the Pakleds, who you may remember from the Next Generation episode “Samaritan Snare”. Their whole thing was that they had alien makeup that looked uncomfortably close to the symptoms of Down’s syndrome, and pretended to be stupid in a vaguely offensive way and then stole all your stuff once you trusted them.
“The Pakleds aren’t that strong,” says Freeman. “They were kind of a joke,” says Ransom. But they’ve grown way more menacing and powerful since their encounter with the Enterprise-D, for seemingly no other reason than it would be wacky, and because their ship is now outfitted with over 30 species’ technologies. They reel Cerritos into a dry dock-type structure and start lasering it into pieces.
Freeman is officially out of options. She turns to Mariner and tells her, “I need a half-baked solution that breaks Starfleet codes and totally pisses me off! That’s an order!”
Mariner comes up with the idea of Independence Day-ing the Pakled ship with a virus that takes advantage of the fact that their computers come from many different species. Ransom remarks that they’d need a morally-bankrupt genius to create a virus that adaptable, and Rutherford’s immediate brainwave is to use Badgey the Badge Sprite from “Terminal Provocations”. Rutherford disables safety protocols—after making Badgey promise not to try to kill him again—and Badgey reveals that he’s already created three such viruses (he was monitoring the comms). I don’t know why there has to be three of them; this never comes back up again. Whichever packet Rutherford selects has to be delivered manually, because the virus won’t activate under non-suspenseful conditions.
The senior crew, Boimler, and Mariner are cornered by Pakleds in the hallway. Luckily, Mariner has enough contraband alien weapons stashed throughout the ship that they can fight them off.
They defeat all the Pakled warriors but Freeman is critically injured. They rush her to a bio-bed in Sickbay. Rutherford returns with the computer virus, and now all they need is someone to deliver it. Ensign Peanut Hamper is the perfect fit: she’s undetectably small, able to cross the void of space to sneak aboard, and can easily deliver the virus with her robotic technology. Peanut Hamper passes. She thinks that all sounds scary, and since she mainly joined Starfleet to “piss off [her] dad” (exocomps have dads now?), Peanut Hamper beams herself out into space to save her own skin.
With no choice left, Rutherford, finally having cycled back to Normal Mode after failing to do anything funny with the different modes, volunteers to load the virus into the Pakled computers. Shaxs scoops him up and runs down the hall with him (“You know I can run on my own!”), punching out bad guys, throwing him into a shuttle, piloting the shuttle through a hail of phaser fire, maneuvering through the grapplers’ claws, crashing through the wall of the enemy ship, and holding off the enemies while Rutherford plugs his brain in.
The virus loads…. and loads… and then loading freezes at 99%. Badgey appears, and of course, he’s doing this to kill Rutherford. Rutherford begs and pleads, and Badgey meets him halfway: he’ll explode the computers and destroy the whole ship.
Shaxs rushes over and rips the implant out of Rutherford’s head, eye and all. He throws him into a shuttle, pushes the shuttle out of the wall, and laughs as the Pakled ship blows up, killing Shaxs for no good reason.
But they’re not out of the woods yet: more Pakled ships drop out of warp and surround the Cerritos, grabbing it with their grapplers, thinking the ship is the Enterprise. In the darkest hour of the Cerritos, who should save the day but the crew of the USS Titan, commanded by special guest star Jonathan Frakes as Will Riker! Troi/the voice of Marina Sirtis is also here. And through the magic of animation, Riker looks to have dropped at least forty pounds since Star Trek: Nemesis.
The superior ship makes mincemeat of the Pakled ships, whose commanders moan, “Oh no, another Enterprise.” The Next Generation theme blares while the routed ships scatter and warp away.
The Cerritos gets repaired in drydock. Rutherford wakes up a while later in Sickbay, not remembering Tendi. It seems he lost his memory along with his brain implant, and Tendi is just excited that they get to become best friends all over again.
Shaxs is eulogized. Freeman and Mariner talk in their office about how many of Starfleet’s problems are due to Starfleet’s arbitrary non-interference rules that let them periodically observe other cultures, and then leave them alone until they get dangerous. Freeman proposes that they start working together, letting Mariner do all the loose cannon type rule-bending necessary to keep the galaxy running. There are like three episodes that end like this, but this is the season finale, so it’ll hopefully stick this time.
Boimler makes peace with Mariner too, saying he’s not going to be obsessed with rank anymore. That promise lasts a whole two seconds before Riker comes back to the table to congratulate Boimler on his work. Before Mariner knows it, Boimler’s snaked a promotion to the Titan from under Mariner’s nose. Ducking all her calls, Boimler takes his place on the bridge of the Titan—to which Captain Riker is late, because he was too busy watching a hologram of the first Enterprise. “Those guys sure had a long road, getting from there to here.” He and Troi have some sexually charged banter, and then Riker gives a jazz count-in to go to warp.
That’s really the whole season? You used to get twenty Star Treks per season, and that was with one-hour episodes! Terrible food, and such small portions! Anyway, if you need me, I’m going to be performing mortifications in the Sonoran desert for the next few weeks to try to get this show out of my system. Tally ho, all.