Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Lower Decks, Season 1: Veritas

 Lower Decks, Season 1
Airdate: September 24, 2020
8 of 10 produced
8 of 10 aired


The Lower Decks crew finds themselves in a strange alien silo, being asked to explain their whereabouts on one very unusual day.


Don't wait for the translation!



Kevin: This episode has a very comfort food feeling to it. It is just chock full of deep cut references that could only titillate a fan, and the overall pacing and storytelling was just... pleasant. It mined stuff like the Klingon court room, the arbitrary alien legal proceedings, and the story told in serial flashback feel quite familiar and the effect is essentially a gentle reminder of everything I love about TNG but not in a way that leaves me angry. Now, is it anything more than that confection? Not really, but I have to be honest, after the episode was over, I didn't mind it. It was 23 genuinely and consistently entertaining minutes that got me to laugh by warmly remembering a thing I love a lot. It's a low bar here in just-before-the-election 2020, but that's all it takes to make feel if not happy, at least less like we are all doomed.

Matthew: I agree on the general entertaining nature of the plot. Because it flitted around so wildly, it felt somewhat fractious and even a little confusing in spots, but it did eventually hang together as a narrative. I enjoyed the fact that the characters pointed out the obvious huge questions and plot holes, which indicates that at least the writing staff understands what he problems are due to the truncated nature of the show, and is hanging a lampshade on them.

Kevin: This is the first appearance of a pre-existing character, a dicey proposition for any franchise. To their credit, they held out one more episode than DS9 before playing the Q card, and I'm gonna say, Lower Deck's works better. It's not a revelation or anything, but the trickster tone of Q honed to a polish in TNG feels perfectly at home on Lower Decks in a way it felt discordant on DS9. The riffs on the various tests and games were funny and just the right length to spike the joke and move on.

Matthew: This use of Q allows him to be a fun guest without raising a lot of questions (as his presence does in, say, Voyager). His jokes were funny. The use of the talking soccer ball felt very "cartoonish" and would not have worked in live action.

Kevin: And I'm not saying they did in some fantastic way that makes the rest of the series more serious as a result, but they attempt to tie in the humor to general thesis of the show, exploring the life of lower decks officers who are not privy to the same information as the senior crew. It's taken to irrational extremes here, and they lampshade it because they have to, but it largely works for me. I doubt the show will give me the Feels in the way its namesake did, but as far as the show is consciously trying to be an obvious but loving parody from the perspective of the non-heroes, I can't say that they aren't doing it consistently and at least competently. Going in, I assumed any attempt at an arc or character work would quickly give way to a game of ever-escalating scatological humor brinksmanship, and happily I was wrong. The same nice people I met in the premier are here, in character, with their same basic problem, told through the parody tinted less of some very affectionate fans. I've said it before, but while this will never replace or even really compete with TNG and DS9 for me, I can't deny I'm having a good time, and if the show is lightweight, I don't mind that here at the end of the world.

Mattthew: Thematically speaking, the plot seemed reverse engineered to bring us to the Main Point, that Lower Decks characters feel ignored by the command crew. I like that the plot brings attention to this, as it was certainly a noticeable feature of the prior episodes of the show. I did dislike somewhat that it was eventually concluded that this state of affairs was real and could indeed persist, as opposed to being something that would actually change. When Boimler and Mariner were on the bridge faking their way through , their ignorance could have led to real death and destruction, and on a ship that made sense, they would never be placed in those positions again. Which yes, I understand it's being played for humor, but the humor and characterizations only really work if the ship's command structure makes sense.


Kevin: The main crew does its usual good job, so I want to praise De Lancie's performance here. He modulated his voice to the zanier end of his canonical Q performances and it works like gangbusters. It was still immediately recognizable but felt like it matched Mariner's sarcastic energy beat for beat. When she dismisses Q with a "not today, go play with Picard" and he whines that all Picard wants to do these days is make wine, I laughed very hard, and I think they managed more rapport certainly than he had with Sisko and in the ballpark of what he had with Janeway.

Matthew: Yeah, De Lancie was fun and only sounded a little bit old. I also liked the alien emcee. I even sort of liked the Mariner performance, like when she was being dropped in the eels. Her mile a minute delivery made more sense in this context. I also really liked Tendi here.

Production Values

Kevin: And the hits keep coming. Gorn. Check? TOS-era Bird of Prey? Double check. Beyond that, I really want to applaud them again for always having something on the screen that takes advantage of the medium and hitting a tone that screams "animated TNG" so clearly and consistently from the pilot.

Matthew: This was a visual feast, to be sure. I would say the highlights were the space chase on the cloaked warbird and the assault on the Romulan base.


Kevin: This is show is shaping up to be a consistently pleasant addition to the Star Trek universe. The things it does well (acting, design) it does extremely well and the humor has been surprisingly consistent and actually funny. I appreciate the criticism that even inside those bounds, they could push for more Big Question stuff or a more textured universe, but judging the show in front of me, not the one I would have made in its place, I cannot deny that I am having fun. And I am not otherwise having a lot of fun right now. Was this episode earth-shattering? Nope. Not by a long shot. But, instead, the episode lands at almost something more valuable: consistently competent, almost aggressively so. The aim of the episode was do a fun flashback story and flag some of the Greatest Hits on the way. Done and done. I miss feeling happily OK about things and this episode hit that bumper for me hard. This is a 3, and it is the happiest I have ever been to give out a 3. Giving out a 3 that is a compliment and not an indictment is something I haven't felt like doing in a while. 

Matthew: I enjoyed this episode, though I felt the truncated nature made it feel frenetic. But it didn't do anything egregious to continuity, it developed the theme of the show appreciably, and again it had a wealth of in-jokes that were well executed. I agree with the 3 for a total of 6.

Kevin: And you know what else they were right about? Roga Danar does have amazing hair.

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