Beckett Mariner: Yeah, no, we’re not really elite. We’re more like the cool, scrappy underdogs of the ship. You know, we don’t wash our hands, we’re doing kick flips all the time.
STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS is my favorite of the Nu Trek installments. I’m including the Abrams movies, Discovery, Picard, Prodigy, and Strange New Worlds in that list. It’s a pretty impressive array because I really did enjoy Star Trek: Picard and Strange New Worlds. I’m also very fond of the early seasons of Discovery as well as two out of the three films. However, if you do notice some caveats, that’s because there are some caveats. Still, Lower Decks is by far my favorite and that’s because it is squarely within my wheelhouse or warp core if you will.
I’ve always loved comedic mash-ups of genre fiction with it being my bread and butter as an author. I’m especially fond of continuity-heavy humor like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While references is the lowest form of humor aside from pun, that doesn’t mean it’s not funny. Fans loving having their knowledge of a franchise rewarded and it sends a little signal to their brain that triggers our happiness glands.
Season three of Lower Decks followed my favorite of the franchise so far with Season Two’s fantastic Pakled arc (which is itself a funny thing to say). Captain Freeman was put on trial for reason against the Federation and genocide, someone having blown up Pakled planet. It proceeds to follow a mostly loosely connected series of low-key events before an exciting finish to the season.
Honestly, I’m going to say this season lacked most of the standout episodes of previous seasons like “Crisis Point”, “Where Pleasant Fountains Lie”, “wej Duj”, and more. The closest it came to a really classic episode was “The Stars at Night” and the very base-breaking “A Mathematically Perfect Redemption.” I didn’t dislike any of the episodes, with the possible exception of “Mining the Mind’s Mines” and “Room for Growth” but the humor seemed pretty hit and miss this season. Also, the wacky yet serious Star Trek stories the show has been known to do were less noticeable this time around.
I believe Season Three was interested in doing a “reset” of the show’s stakes. Gradually, our Lower Deckers have started to become more competent and less bungling in their handling of the galaxy’s weirdness. This has occassionally run into the Harry Kim problem of why they remain Ensigns despite this but has been satisfying in terms of character growth. However, the show mostly dealt with almost trivial issues throughout and the difference between Billups needing to avoid having sex in order to be king versus getting a better set of rooms on Deck 1 are pretty apparent in their comic potential.
The character who most benefited from this season is undoubtedly Rutherford as we finally give him some much needed character development. “Reflections” gives him a past as a delinquent and rebel that contrasts nicely against his vanilla nice guy present persona. Unfortunately, that side of him chooses to die and leaves Rutherford without much character development.
The next character to benefit most would be Beckett Mariner who finally is forced to behave as a proper Starfleet officer by being put under someone other than her mother. This wildly sensible idea turns out to be a good one but I think a lot of fans expected another shoe to drop. Her actually shaping up ends up being something of a surprise by episode “Trusted Sources.”
Tendi and Boimler get less interesting development with little coming from Tendi’s assignment to become a science officer. She seems to be largely doing the same thing as she’s always done. We do find out she wants to eventually become a captain, though. I also was interested in “Bold Boimler” but he was already showing alot of improvement after his return from the USS Titan. I’m not sure we’ve seen some real improvement there and he also makes some strange out of character decisions like ignoring fawning fangirls as well as wanting to travel in a sidecar.
It feels like much of this season was just running in place. “A Mathematically Perfect Redemption” may be primarily about bit-character Peanut Hamper but I really enjoyed it for the fact that it had such a mean-spirited twist. That’s why I liked it and yet suspect many other people won’t. “The Stars at Night” is also the best episode of the season by far, fully playing straight what was normally done for laughs. I liked the DS9 homages of “Hear All, Trust Nothing” but it didn’t go very deep into it and I wanted to see more Mariner explore the station.
“Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus” is the episode I have the most mixed feelings about because it does some genuinely on-point and fascinating parody of the “other” kind of Star Trek movie. There’s two basic Star Trek movies, IMO, with room for hyperbole. There’s the Khan clones that the original Crisis Point parodied and then there’s TMP clones that amount to a search for God/Heaven. Which is The Final Frontier and Generations but three times is a lot.
In conclusion, I feel like this season was certainly okay but is roughly on par with the first season in terms of both humor as well as writing. There’s just not enough “meat” to the bone here.