This week on Lower Decks, we’re granted a small peek behind the veil of Ensign Mariner’s mysterious past, watch a dog do things a dog should never do, and find out exactly what happens to all of the victims of Starfleet’s… accidents.
Firstly, Tendi genetically engineers The Dog in her spare time. Not just any dog, of course, because Tendi has never seen a dog before. Her interpretation of an “updated” dog is a terrifying, reality-bending, golden retriever-shaped monstrosity, whom she puts upon her friends after they’ve suffered a strenuous day. The Dog waits until she leaves to get her notes before morphing into a wall-scaling nightmare beast, horrifying Boimler and Rutherford. Mariner, ever unshakable, brushes it off and tries to get some sleep.
In the morning, we learn that Capt. Freeman, Cmmdr. Ransom, and Lt. Shacks take on a special ops, covert agricultural mission. Doing so means leaving the command positions open for a substitute crew, much to Mariner’s chagrin. Boimler is thrilled at the change in command, eager for any opportunity to impress a different captain. In an attempt to appear promote-able, he volunteers to assist Rutherford with his transporter modifications, quickly jumping on the pad despite Rutherford’s note that he was still working out the kinks. When the return transport is complete, Boimler gets caught mid-phase, physically producing bright blue light and that shrill transporter tone at an absurdly loud volume. Determined to still make a good impression, Boimler heads to the bridge for his shift.
On the bridge, Mariner prepares herself for the tedium of a babysitter, she’s pleasantly surprised to discover that the substitute captain is her best friend from Starfleet Academy, Amina. As they reminisce about old times, Boimler enters and tries to go to his station as if everyone can’t see and hear him. He resists when he’s sent to Sick Bay, and is further terrified when Dr. T’Ana informs him that he’ll have to be sent to a rehabilitative resort facility known as The Farm. He’s bummed that he’ll miss an opportunity to kiss somebody else’s butt, but takes solace in knowing that at least Tendi is going with him. She’s accompanying The Dog under protest, completely unfazed by the fact that that dog can do things that no dog should be able to do, in the most horrifying way imaginable.
In her mother’s office, Mariner is goofing off, intentionally distracting Amina as she tries to make her captain’s log. Recalling how skilled she was during their Academy days and asserting that Mariner’s knowledge of the crew would be extremely useful, Amina offers her a position as a temporary first officer on their upcoming mission to a bog planet. When presented with the opportunity of a lifetime by way of her best friend, Mariner should be thrilled. But the queen of underachievement looks nervous about the prospect of more responsibility. Is Mariner really as badass as she projects herself to be, or will we find out if she’s a fraud?
Boimler and Tendi wait for the arrival of the Division 14 ship, greeted at the airlock by the ship’s medical specialist who happens to be the first Edosian we’ve seen since Lt. Arex from Star Trek: the Animated Series. Everything about this person is ominous af, but Tendi remains a beacon of light and optimism. Meanwhile, Mariner preps to go to the surface of the bog planet with the away team, boasting about her flagrant disregard for regulations with tales of her shenanigans. Amina’s team is not impressed then, and they’re certainly not impressed when Mariner’s carelessness almost costs them the mission. She then shows us Boimler-level acts of incompetence, causing the others in Amina’s team to question Mariner’s abilities as a Starfleet officer.
Back on the Division 14 nightmare vessel, Boimler and Tendi meet the other patients, each of them more alarmingly disfigured than the last. We see officers fused together, an officer who’s half old man, half child, we even meet Anthony, who appears to be at an extremely advanced stage of evolution, bearing a striking resemblance to Tom Paris when he breached warp 10. The crew of victims assert a mutiny, and Boimler being Starfleet through and through, snitches to the medical specialist. The specialist moves to quell an uprising just in time for their arrival to an actual medical spa. As Boimler meets his two eager nurses, he completes his phase and returns to solid matter, forcing him to return to the Cerritos with Tendi.
As they beam over to help the crew of a damaged starship after a missed rendezvous, Mariner gets called out on her tendency to underachieve by her best friend, then proceeds to save the day, as usual. By ordering Rutherford to utilize his new transporter modifications, she managed to beam everyone to safety, even if they were caught in a state of flux like Boimler’s.
Mariner eventually admits to her taking frequent dives in order to dodge the responsibility of command, and Amina holds a space for her whenever she’s ready to move up. This leaves us with the pressing question, if Mariner has been holding back and still manages to be a rockstar, who knows what she’s capable of when she actually cares?
(Side Note: It has been five episodes since that malevolent, albeit tiny, light being implanted itself in Capt. Freeman’s chest. Leaving this here in case it pops up again in time for the finale.)