It’s been a while since I reviewed a Star Trek episode. Well, most of the good stuff in TNG was in the 90s as is DS9 and I can’t yet review 90s sci fi stuff. But this is a month of reviewing animation, no I’m not reviewing Star Trek the animated series, if you want to you can go see the episode with the giant clone of Spock.
When Star Trek Lower Decks first came out… admittedly I was in a bad place with the franchise and listened to all the wrong things. Discovery had lost what first made it interesting, Picard was….. ugh so I was thinking too negatively. But over time positive word of mouth started to reach me and I double checked and, I had been so wrong.
What first I saw as them spitting on Star Trek, I started to notice was from a genuine love and understanding of the franchise. The people complaining had been focusing on things so specifically I had missed the big picture and that picture… was really funny. These were jokes that while poking fun at Star Trek, could only be done if you really loved it, and that’s before you start getting nodes and references.
A great way to see things is how the 2 leads Mariner and Boimler fit. With Boimler being this wide-eyed image obsessed that Star Fleet is perfect. The image of someone obsessed with the Roddenberry idea and that you can’t deviate from it (let’s not go into the issues with that) while Mariner being the more jaded Star Trek viewer looking over all the failings and seeing the franchise more like the darker sci fi of nowadays would do things.
But I think the series best strength is rather than focus on a long-serialized plot like most modern Trek does, the main progression comes from the characters. Our 4 main leads (yes there are two more) as well as a very fleshed out recurring cast grow as characters and keep growing from their experiences. We learn more about them, see bonds grow and how they each tackle different kinds of circumstances.
Which brings us to the 9th episode of the first series, which contains some important bits of character growth (mainly Mariner) and a big old episode long joke on Star Trek movies, plus a few more subtle jokes about the time old tradition of holodeck gone awry plots.
Boimler is up for an interview with Captain Carol Freeman, who is also Mariners mother but at this point that’s kept from the rest of the crew. To prepare himself he built a holodeck program featuring the whole crew using private files to help get their personalities so he can butter up the captain. But Mariner hijacks the program to essentially make an action movie so she can vent her frustrations and …. well she starts just slaughtering the crew because of a grievance with her mother.
The main jokes at the expense of Star Trek movies comes in the form of the visuals, such as long shots overlooking the Cerritos (the name of the ship) as well as lens flairs and the look of a higher budget on effects and staging over the rest of the show. But the development of characters comes as Mariners rampage, because just as self-destructive, angering her friends who she dragged into it especially Tendi and Orion (and best character) who she pushed into the role of a stereotypical Orion something she is not and felt so hurt by she leaves the holodeck.
This just continues Mariner’s self-destruction as she confronts her mother until the Captain is saved by an unexpected source, the holodeck version of Mariner. This is a genius move as it’s the old trope of facing an evil version of yourself, yet the real Mariner is the evil version, one consumed by her anger, while the holodeck version is showing all her better qualities by saving her mother.
Anyway I’ll leave the rest for you to watch yourself as the show won me over long before this episode but the mix of taking jokes at Star Trek movies (something they do again in season 3) as well as major character growth of one of our leads exemplifies what I like about this show. I feel bad that I originally dismissed it and slagged it off early as, this is probably the best Star Trek show we have now. It’s greenly good and fun. Able to show what you can do with this franchise at a time other more “normal” or “adult” entries just fail so much they do enrage me. (Of note I have not seen Strange New Worlds, but have heard it is very good and want to see it)
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