Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Lower Decks, Season 1: Envoys

Lower Decks, Season 1
Airdate: August 13, 2020
2 of 10 produced
2 of 10 aired


Boimler and Mariner are tasked with escorting an unruly Klingon dignitary.

Tendi displayed pretty much my reaction upon watching this scene.


Kevin: In the plus column, both stories were actually about the characters and their relationships. It's a little quick to see how Rutherford cycles through career goals ostensibly to have more free time as opposed to just not spending four days in the Jeffries tube, which presumably, no other officer is doing, but the animation helps paper over those problems. It was nice to see the senior officers support the younger ones trying to find their best place, and a nice tonic to their slight dickishness last week. It supports my theory that some shades of that are supposed to be Boimler's interpretation. Boimler and Mariner have good buddy cop chemistry, though I think Boimler needs to actually get to save the day at some point or he's going to be a little too green for his own good. And sure, I saw the Ferengi feint from yesterday before I even watched the episode, but I can enjoy it since it's anchored in Mariner taking care of rather than making fun of Boimler. Overall, the main story was a slightly overstuffed affair like last week, but I cannot deny that I genuinely enjoyed myself.

Matthew: Although I question the notion of someone transferring divisions so many times in a day, I totally agree that the way the staff treated the requests was light years ahead of their bad actions and attitudes last episode. I still don't buy the "it was all in Boimler's head" excuse, but there was a measurable improvement this episode, so I'm satisfied. The individual division vignettes were pretty good, too. The A story, though... I just don't really get it. Are they not doing sci-fi, and that's just the thing of this show? It was just sort of a lame comedy setup, and Mariner again came off as a bad officer who shouldn't be in Starfleet, not a fun person who lifts the others around them up with their insouciance. I am well aware that "escorting out of control dignitary" is a story that TNG and VOY have done, and to pleasing comedic effect. The comedy here didn't make me laugh (with the exception of the bad translation joke, at which I chuckled). But what was this planet, anyway? Why did it have so many people hostile to Starfleet if it was a Federation base? Why was there a Risa.... franchise? How has this egg laying parasite bikini babe gone unnoticed?

Kevin: Matt and I discussed the teaser right after watching and we both have opinions but since I started this one, I get to go first. I think the teasers are consciously being structured as standalone vignettes that get to lean into the more parody elements of the show. Particularly in light of Mariner's behavior last week, I don't quite take seriously she would trap and coerce a sentient being, but given the general tone, and Tendi literally making that objection, it starts to feel more like a gentle ribbing of the number of malevolent and/or impregnating balls of light the show has encountered.

Matthew: I think there are ways to make the "energy being trope" a subject of humor without doing it in a way that either makes Mariner look like an awful Starfleet officer or calls into question the whole ethos of the Federation. There are so many humorous questions to ask. Do you hang out with other energy beings? How could this possibly be an evolutionary strategy? Why are you always androgynous and sparkly when you manifest as a person? Do you watch physical beings in the shower? But no, they wanted to trap it. And were they setting up a future story when the tiny leftover being was absorbed into the captain's body?

Kevin: It's only two data points, but even assuming this line stays moving in the same direction, I have to say, I think this feels more like an actual Star Trek show taking a walk rather than a non-Star Trek show passing off sow's ears for silk purses. All of my problems are problems in a show I am coming to like rather than a reason I don't like the show. The trivia base is deep. Mariner's dream mumbling Wrath of Khan quotes is deep cut stuff and given that they don't dwell on it, I don't think it's being done cynically. The depth and breadth of the references that don't draw attention to themselves really makes me think fans are deeply involved and having a good time. Coupled with the tonal and visual consistency with TNG/DS9/VOY, it really does feel like I'm watching the Star Trek I love, even if it's trying for a different medium or general tone.

Matthew: I don't know what they're trying to do. Are they making new Star Trek, or are they just referencing old Star Trek? Am I supposed to take these stories as events that really happen in continuity? It's very hard for me to do that, because I just can't accept a ship that is run this way by officers that act this way. The Orville or Galaxy Quest have the freedom to "break norms" like this because they're not being marked out as specifically Star Trek. It seems like this show is trying to have it both ways - trading on my love for Star Trek while breaking rules specific to Star Trek. With that said, this is clearly not the "Miserable People Doing Horrible Things" universe of Discovery and Picard. I agree it does feel basically like the world in which people live on cool starships with sweet gear like replicators and holodecks, and it's the kind of place I would want to live, too. I guess this is sort of in the "Star Trek 2009" zone for me right now - tonally a fairly OK place to be, but hopefully not plot-wise. If Mariner becomes captain I'm going to go completely ape-shit.


Kevin: The voice actors are good. Full stop. All of the main four have distinct personalities that consistently shine. They continue to fall victim to the rapid pacing, but there hasn't really been a bum note yet. I did laugh out loud at Boimler trying different inflections of "nuqneh." And come on...that's actually the word Marc Orkand wrote for the Klingon greeting. It's in the dictionary. Whatever problems of tone or consistency the show has aside, little touches like that clearly establish the show's bona fides.

Matthew: I would say the Boimler and Rutherford and Tendi characters are the ones connecting for me the most here. Which is a way of saying that Mariner still annoys me and I wish they'd dial her down just a notch. Boimler in particular is an amusing "Straight Man" to Mariner's more annoying "Zany Person." All in all, the voice work is high quality.

Production Values

Kevin: I feel this section is going largely get split between whatever special scenes an episode has and whatever background pieces and jokes they manage to sneak it, and I have to say, the giant horgann worked for me. The interior shots of engineering, the holodeck and security in addition to the alternate style bridge all served to further anchor the show in pure Trekness. Stylistically, I cannot fault the show for riffing pretty cleanly and successfully on the TNG/DS9/VOY era in way that makes me happy. Even the dress uniform was that perfectly balanced touch of awareness of the franchise without getting wrapped up in references.

Matthew: Yep. I liked all the interior "sets" and thought the "locations" and alien designs were well done, as well.


Kevin: This is a 3. And that's the most enthusiastic three I've given new Trek in some time. This was a gloriously, almost nourishingly, average episode. The character work is solid. The core idea of the stories is there, and the entire package was a pleasant, if not revolutionary, twenty-some minutes. Do I hope they can slow down and maybe pull from the deeper bag of Star Trek's tricks? Sure. But....even if it ends up creating tonal consistency problems, the animated format seems to have freed up the franchise to have fun again. If the worst thing I can say about this show is that it's an obvious fan's loving riff on TNG, I think I'll end up pretty happy.

Matthew: I agree with the 3. It can never be more than a 3 because little things (like trapping the alien, or Mariner not reading mission briefings) keep pulling me out of that Happy Trek Zone in my brain. But the overall feel of the show is close enough, I care about the characters, and none of the plots have thus far gone into universe-breaking territory. That makes for another 6, and possibly the best start to a Kurtzman-era show yet.

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