Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Lower Decks, Season 1: Moist Vessel

 Lower Decks, Season 1
"Moist Vessel"

Airdate: August 27, 2020

4 of 10 produced

4 of 10 aired


The Cerritos is tasked with another vessel to tow an ancient derelict ship with phenomenal terraforming ability. Meaning, in her enthusiasm to make friends, Tendi goes a little too far.


 Pictured: The captain recklessly destroying crew morale



Kevin: So I think this episode locks the door and vaporizes the key on the issue of the show being a parody, at least to a large extent. That's not a criticism per se; it's just an honest assessment. I think it's important to do that in order to meet the show where it is to see how it meets the goals it sets for itself. Mariner purposely and loudly yawning during a meeting with another captain aboard is just not something that would not happen in a live action Trek show. Even Ro knew how to thinly disguise the eyeroll. I think the animated format with shorter episodes allows for this kind of universe bending a little more readily since even if you don't like it, it's too short and inconsequential to get mad at. The show is neither a prequel or even upsetting the status quo of the post TNG/DS9/VOY order, so to the extent it feels outside the box, I think it's easy to just skip it if its not your cup of tea. I like that they at least attempt to pay off Mariner's behavior with the conversation in the turboshaft. Sure, it's a cliche to reveal the battling mother/daughter have more in common then they think and they're both at least a little wrong. But still, it's not just jokes of Mariner being insubordinate, they are at least trying to tie it into having high-ranking Starfleet officers for parents. My only criticism is that the compressed time format and how far they have otherwise taken Mariner's behavior make it harder to lock into the arc emotionally.

Matthew: As a character story, I generally like what they've got going with Mariner and her mom. It's classic parent-child drama/comedy, with reverse psychology and chafing against being seen as an adolescent. As a Star Trek character story it goes way too far for me. If it were just the yawning and then some discipline by the captain afterward, that would be one thing. But the scene as it played out could never happen on a Starfleet vessel. Never. She would have been disciplined severely, and if the behavior persisted, she would be cashiered out of the fleet. And Mariner didn't just yawn and try to explain it away. She called on everyone else in the room to acknowledge how boring the meeting is. Well, I didn't find it boring. I wanted to learn about the generational ship. So am I the one who is wrong here? Is Real Star Trek boring, and that's the message? Then, the whole crew seems to go along with the captain's plan to single out her daughter unfairly, and then to promote her unfairly. It resulted in a good holodeck joke, I guess. But what sealed the deal for me was the Tellarite captain being thoroughly incompetent and negligently causing the disaster that nearly destroys both ships out of spite. I could almost accept it if it was just the Cerritos that was supposed to have this collection of substandard officers, like a Bad News Bears situation where I'm supposed to root for the plucky, overmatched underdogs. But I guess it's the rest of the fleet, too? I guess this is a long way of saying that the A-story really rubbed me the wrong way. They keep doing things that indicate to me that this is supposed to be real trek, and then they people it with characters behaving in ways that are totally inconsistent with it. Just an aside - when you muck your cards in poker, you do not show them to everyone.

Kevin: Likewise, Tendi's story is a solid idea, the newbie trying too hard to fit in, but it gets crowded out by the crisis and the ascension jokes. That said, I did laugh very hard at the riff on 'turning into energy' at the end. What does the koala know?... Anyway, both A and B plots this week were very in the vein the show appears to be going, that of loving fans of TNG making a show that lovingly skewers the thing they love. My concern going in is that would burn out after an episode or two. Parody works for an SNL skit, it's harder to make a whole show, but overall, I think it's been more successful than not, largely due to the fact that even if it's brief, the episode does check in with the characters about their feelings about the events of the episode. Boimler is outraged Mariner gets promoted before him. Tendi learns (kind of) to tone it down. It's not earth-shattering personal insights, but it's more than other shows give their characters.

Matthew: The B-story worked a lot better for me. The humor was better, and the satirical take was explored in a way that broke the universe far less. What this says to me is that it's the character writing. This Mariner/Captain story is being written with a Marty McFly sort of "slacker" characterization, and it breaks the boundaries too much. Tendi (in this case), Boimler and Rutherford make a hell of a lot more sense as characters who have both graduated the academy and who have officer-level postings on a Starfleet vessel. With them as the anchors for stories, I'm all in on the satire. There are so many things to poke fun of with the Trek Energy Being trope, and they brought up some good ones here.


Kevin: Noel Wells stood out for me this week. She had to do a kind of zany intensity that fits the mood of the show without breaking the character, and I think she nailed it. I like both Tawny Newsome and Dawnn Lewis' performances and think they manage to work well off each other. It does make me want to see a scene more focused on their relationship than the running gag of Mariner's attitude.

Matthew: When Tawny Newsome isn't doing the 1000-words-a-minute, crap-on-Star-Trek zany shtick, I totally buy her relationship with Dawnn Lewis' captain. It's a shame she's written so poorly.

Production Values

Kevin: Whatever my problems with the plot are, the visuals this week carried it for me. The ship itself was cool and the terraforming effects were neat-o and another feather in the cap of the show doing things their live action counterparts couldn't. It did make me wish they had spent more the episode there, maybe even gotten to meet the aliens who built it.

Matthew: Like the zombie battle, the level of destruction was over the top for me. How did they fix their respective ships? But I'm willing to forgive it, because of "Masks" and "Killing Game." Good precedents? No. But precedents, at least. 


Kevin: This is probably my least favorite episode overall, given that the character work with Mariner and Freeman is too compressed to really land, and the ascension story while funny in places and beautifully rendered, is too nakedly parody to really have an emotional impact. All that said, I was still reasonably diverted and the animation of the terraforming was beautiful, so this is my weakest 3 of the bunch, but I don't think it gets into 2 territory.

Matthew: I do think this goes into 2 territory, for a total of 5. This was definitely my least favorite episode, because both the lead character of the show and a Starfleet captain behaved in world-breaking ways. There were pleasures to be had in the B-story and a few of the jokes in the A-story. But I'm less sure of what this show is trying to be.

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