The fourth season of Lower Decks sees the lower-deckers being less lower-decky, as our four main characters (as well as one of our recurring regulars) all get promoted to lieutenant junior-grade. Having previously covered the good, the bad, and the ugly of the horribly uneven season one; the good, the bad, and the awesome for the much better season two; and the good, the bad, and the interesting for the more complex season three; this time around we cover the good, the bad, and the spectacularly nerdy, because LD is both at its best and its worst when it’s being nerdy….
The absolute best thing, bar none, about season four is the recurrence of T’Lyn, magnificently voiced by the great Gabrielle Ruiz. The Vulcan science officer’s deadpan is the perfect contrast to the spectacularly manic main four, and she has proven to play beautifully off of three of the four regulars. (We haven’t really seen her team up with Rutherford yet.) She gives good command advice to Boimler in “In the Cradle of Vexilon,” she’s a useful helpmeet on the Orion adventure that she joins Mariner and Tendi for in “Something Borrowed, Something Green,” and the ongoing relationship that develops between the super-serious T’Lyn and the goofily dorky Tendi is just epic. Plus, T’Lyn has arguably the funniest line of the entire season, though its humor can only really be appreciated in context and with Ruiz’s voice: “Ah—it is a volcano.”
In past seasons, Captain Freeman has been somewhat inconsistently portrayed, depending on the needs of the plot. Sometimes she’s the Trek equivalent of the pointy-haired boss from Dilbert. Sometimes she’s a brilliant captain. Sometimes she has to carry the idiot ball in order to make the joke work. But this season, she’s mostly been what all Starfleet captains should be, even the ones on the crappy ships: a badass. From her reconstructing the planetary computer in “In the Cradle of Vexilon” to her brilliant negotiating with Grand Nagus Rom in “Parth Ferengi’s Heart Place” to her dramatic rescue of her daughter in “Old Friends, New Planet,” Freeman has been much more in the mode of Trek‘s fabulous captains this year.
The looks into the lower decks of Ferengi, Klingon, Romulan, Orion, and Bynar ships has been a delight.
In general, the looks into the Orion society we’ve gotten, mostly in “Something Borrowed, Something Green” and “Old Friends, New Planet,” has been very enlightening, a long overdue look at a culture that goes back to “The Cage” in 1964 and which has had very little done with it outside of a really terrible Enterprise episode before now. (We’ve gotten some on Discovery, ‘tis true, but that’s all been in the far future, and mostly focused on the Emerald Chain as a criminal organization, not much—at least not yet—on Orion culture as such.)
The AGIMUS-Peanut Hamper pairing in “A Few Badgeys More” proved to be an absolute delight. Having them turn into besties who are less interested in planetary conquest and more interested in being with the ones they love is, at once, hilarious and also completely true to Trek’s core ethos. Plus no one ever went wrong making use of Jeffrey Combs or Kether Donohue, and they’re both fantastic.
“Caves” was quite possibly the best piece of Trek satire the show has done, doing a hilarious riff on the franchise’s tropism for cave sets, and nailing several other clichés at the same time, all the while telling a story that’s a very Trekkish tale of friendship and solving problems through talking rather than violence.
Moopsy! “I Have No Bones Yet I Must Flee” gives us the most adorable psychotic monster ever in Moopsy! Moopsy is fabulous! (Okay, Moopsy is crazy-dangerous, but still…) Moopsy!
On the one hand, Mariner gets some character development this season, but while this should be good, it feels like we’ve gone over this territory before. We know Mariner has had trauma in her life that would explain her constant self-sabotage (the death of a dear friend on the U.S.S. Quito, as established in “Cupid’s Errant Arrow”), but they decided to insert another trauma on top of that, one that was never mentioned before: her best friend at the Academy was Sito Jaxa, from TNG’s “The First Duty” and (of course) “Lower Decks.” Sito’s death in the latter episode did a number on Mariner, and while her coming to terms with it in “Old Friends, New Planet” indicates that she’ll do better, we’ve had indications of that before. And Mariner has constantly backslid. It’s grown tiresome. (For an alternate take on Mariner, check out the brilliant Jaime Babb’s “How I Learned to Love Beckett Mariner” on this here site…)
While it was entertaining to see all kinds of ships get zapped by what turns out to be Nick Locarno’s zappy thing from Nova Fleet, the actual resolution of that plotline was a major disappointment. First of all, they fooled me, at least, into thinking it was Badgey responsible, and while that’s mostly on me, the execution in “A Few Badgeys More” could’ve been clearer. Also the fact that the ships weren’t destroyed, but instead somehow the top brass of each ship was exiled and the lower-decks folk put in charge and part of Nova Fleet strained credulity to the breaking point. It wasn’t clear where Locarno got all his wonderful toys or how they worked or, well, anything. It was just dumb.
The rivalry between Rutherford and Livik that we saw in “I Have No Bones Yet I Must Flee” was kinda weak-sauce, but if it became a recurring thing, it could’ve worked. But we didn’t see it again until “Old Friends, New Planet,” when their argument was resolved by the stupid Mark Twain thing.
SPEAKING OF THAT, oh my goodness was the stupid Mark Twain thing stupid. Introduced in “Something Borrowed, Something Green” as a method of resolving arguments by having both sides cosplay as Samuel Clemens on a holodeck re-creation of his steamship the A.B. Chambers, it was incredibly dumb in that episode, and even dumber when it was brought back for the finale. Especially since most people’s impersonations of Clemens sound more like a mix of Colonel Sanders and Foghorn Leghorn than the famous author…
This is technically a good thing, but I’m putting it under “bad” because it lasted for three years: there is no way, none, that officers in Starfleet would be quartered in open bunks in an open-access hallway. Even on modern submarines, which are the poster children for holy-shit-we-don’t-have-enough-space, officers get at least a modicum of privacy. It is patently absurd that on a starship that has a theoretically unlimited power source (the annihilation of matter and antimatter) they can’t spare some space for officers to have private bunks. So while it’s good that they finally allowed our heroes to have, y’know, walls in their sleeping quarters this season, it’s fixing something that should never have been there in the first place.
Not nearly enough of T’Ana, Shaxs, or Kimolu and Matt. Though what we did get of them was, as always, fabulous.
The Spectacularly Nerdy
The Ferengi are allied with the Federation! This is the perfect accomplishment of the Grand Nagus Rom regime. We already know that the Ferengi are part of the Federation in the thirty-second century thanks to Discovery, and there’s something incredibly appropriate about seeing that process start on LD of all places, and especially by having Rom and Leeta forge that alliance. Plus Max Grodénchik and Chase Masterson get to reprise their roles, joining the legion of past Trek folk who have voiced their characters on LD.
Speaking of that, we also had Robert Duncan McNeill coming back for the second time on LD, this time to voice his other Trek character, Locarno. In addition, they dragged Shannon Fill out of retirement to again voice Cadet Sito Jaxa in flashback, also getting Wil Wheaton to reprise the role of Cadet Wes Crusher in that same flashback. Plus we finally get to see poor Cadet Josh Albert, whose death drove the plot of “The First Duty,” but whom we never actually saw until “Old Friends, New Planet.”
“Twovix” is made up almost entirely of Voyager references, from the merging of crewmembers from “Tuvix” to getting versions of the salamanders that Janeway and Paris turned into in “Threshold” to the Borg to the macrovirus from “Macrocosm” to Dr. Chaotica from the various Captain Proton holodeck episodes to the clown from “The Thaw” to (for some stupid-ass reason) Michael Sullivan from the two stupid-ass Irish stereotype holodeck episodes that were stupid-ass. (Though strangely, not a single actor from Voyager was used to voice a character in the episode.)
In addition, “Twovix” sorta-kinda crosses over with Picard season three, as the latter established that Voyager was in the Fleet Museum at the turn of the twenty-fifth century (twenty years after this episode), and “Twovix” is when the ship was officially made into a museum piece, with the Fleet Museum being its eventual destination after its inaugural display on Earth.
Finally, having the Ferengi put in a paywall in order to disarm the Genesis Device was just perfection itself.
Like season two, this one ends in a cliffhanger, with Tendi going off to become the Mistress of the Winter Constellations once again. One assumes that this will be reversed like, y’know, almost every other time a main castmember leaves the ship (including on this show, viz. Boimler’s promotion and transfer to Titan at the end of season one). Besides, T’Lyn finally broke down and agreed to be Tendi’s science bestie—she has to come back!
There’s lots of stuff I didn’t cover in this overview (like, I didn’t even mention Goodgey…), so please feel free to tell me in the comments what you thought was good, bad, and/or spectacularly nerdy!
Keith R.A. DeCandido’s most recent work includes several short stories: “Prezzo” in Weird Tales: 100 Years of Weird, a story about Italian immigrants in 1930s New York City and monsters; “Know Thyself Deathless” in Double Trouble: An Anthology of Two-Fisted Team-Ups (which he co-edited with Jonathan Maberry), teaming H. Rider Haggard’s She with the Yoruba goddess Egungun-oya; “Another Dead Body on the Corner” in Joe Ledger: Unbreakable, featuring Ledger in his days as a Baltimore homicide cop; “What Do You Want From Me, I’m Old” in The Four ???? of the Apocalypse (which he co-edited with Wrenn Simms), about the four septuagenarians of the apocalypse; “The Legend of Long-Ears” in The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny, a Weird Western tale of Bass Reeves and Calamity Jane; and “The Kellidian Kidnapping” and “Work Worth Doing” in the two most recent issues of Star Trek Explorer, the former a Voyager story featuring Tuvok, the latter the backstory for Discovery’s President Rillak.