If there was ever a concern that Lower Decks would be unable to sustain it’s intense, high-octane pacing for the entire season, this first season finale makes a strong argument for the undeniable staying power of this show.
We open as Capt. Freeman and Cmmdr. Ransom pay a visit to Beta III, last seen in The Animated Series. After he and the captain remind the Betans that following a murderous sentient computer is a terrible way to live life, Ransom nearly breaks the fourth wall as he fondly refers to the TOS crew as “Those Old Scientists” when he and the captain return to the Cerritos. We see the beginnings of a new leaf turning as Freeman gripes about Starfleet’s selective nature surrounding contact with other civilizations.
Ensigns Mariner and Boimler remain on the surface, handing out arts and crafts supplies to children and violating several regulations in the process. When the bridge opens a comm link to Boimler just as he reveals to Mariner that he’s learned her secret, he accidentally also tells the whole ship.
This, of course, changes everything.
In the nearby Kallas system, Capt. Dayton and her crew scan plasma aboard the newly-minted USS Solvang. Just as Dayton is enjoying the aesthetic of her new ship, a beast of a ship drops out of warp and opens fire. The Solvang takes a beating before the enemy ship launches some heavy duty clamps, holding it in place. After sustaining heavy damage, Dayton orders the ship to jump to warp. Those clamps held on to the nacel anyway, and after surviving the disaster in “Much Ado About Boimler”, Dayton and her crew meet a sudden and alarming end.
Back on the Cerritos, Rutherford tags along as Tendi becomes an orientation liaison for a new recruit. He discovers a new attitude selector on his cranial implant, which is – admittedly – an odd feature for a Vulcan device. The new recruit is a surprisingly adorable floating droid, and is even more bubbly and charming than Tendi.
Meanwhile, Freeman and Mariner lament about the crew knowing the true nature of their relationship. When Ransom makes an awkward entrance, Mariner storms off and feels the full brunt of the disappearance of her anonymity. Even Boimler cashes in the brown-nosing (shocking), asking her to sign a recommendation to sweeten his request to transfer to an open position on the USS Sacramento. But when Mariner realizes that a transfer to a new ship would mean a chance to escape everyone’s scrutiny, she ties up her hair, finally rolls down those sleeves, and sets out to be a model officer.
The new recruit, who chose the name “Peanut Hamper”, shows some difficulty in the dexterity arena, causing Tendi to worry about challenges she’s sure to face within the physical requirements of her duties. But in sick bay, Peanut Hamper reveals herself to be an extremely skilled surgeon, putting Tendi’s worries to rest.
Just as Boimler throws a fit about Mariner’s sudden change of attitude, the Cerritos arrives in the Kallas system, finding the wreckage of the Solvang being harvested by the enemy vessel. Before they can get their bearings, the vessel fires upon them, ensnaring them in clamps like the other ship. Fortunately, Freeman has enough sense not to try and jump to warp, but the Cerritos sustains heavy damage just the same. The enemy vessel opens a channel, and it’s those damned Pakleds.
They may have upgraded their acquisition methods since the Enterprise encountered them, but they’re still just as dull. The Pakleds still hold a grudge for the Enterprise, and have taken to referring to all Starfleet vessels as such. When Freeman tries to explain, Pakleds commence to carving up the ship “like a First Contact Day Salmon”. In direst of straits, Freeman uses sound logic and displays a new level of confidence in her daughter’s chaotic abilities, ordering her to think of something just crazy enough to work. Mariner in turn assigns Rutherford the task of developing a virus to destroy the Pakleds’ systems. Being the excellent engineer that he is, Rutherford goes to the holodeck to conjure up the only being on the ship morally divergent enough to think of such a virus: Badgey.
Oh yes, kids – Badgey is back and he’s still a terrifying, murderous fiend. He manipulates Rutherford into turning off safety protocols before handing over not one, but three viruses that need to be updated manually to be capable of destroying the Pakled ship. Such a jerk.
The Pakleds slowly begin boarding the Cerritos. Evacuating the bridge, Mariner leads the small band of officers to the armory before they get intercepted by mace-wielding Pakleds. Just as Ransom gets fist-happy, Mariner kicks a few panels and reveals a small arsenal of contraband, including a bat’leth, a fencing rapier, and a tribble, of all things.
They manage to fend off the intruders, but Freeman is in bad shape, so the group makes a break for sick bay. Rutherford joins them with the virus, and each of them decide Peanut Hamper is the best suited for a task that requires the ability to discreetly and safely board the Pakled ship and upload the virus. She abruptly declines and beams herself out of danger, opting to float in space rather than save the day.
Rutherford volunteers his cybernetic abilities to the cause, and Shaxs leaps at the opportunity to get into more trouble. Together, they board a shuttle and barge their way onboard the Pakled ship, Shaxs defending Rutherford as he uploads the virus. Of course Badgey makes it even more perilous, installing a self-destruct protocol into the system before Rutherford can unplug from the console.
In a stunning turn of events, Shaxs rips out Rutherford’s cranial implant, tosses his unconscious body onto the shuttle, and pushes it into space, giving the ensign just enough time to clear the explosion. But before they can get away, three more Pakled ships drop out of warp, insinuating certain doom for the crew of the now-crippled Cerritos. Just as things start looking grim, the Titan arrives with guns blazing. Captained by Will Riker with Counselor Troi by his side, the Titan makes light work of the Pakleds, sending them off in a hurry.
After the battle, the Cerritos undergoes a massive repair job at star dock, and Tendi watches after an unconscious Rutherford in sick bay. He miraculously wakes up, and while he remembers his name, he has no recollection of the battle or his relationship with Tendi. Being the sweetheart that she is, Tendi rejoices at having the opportunity to become best friends all over again.
Though the day has been saved, this encounter is not without its casualties. Lt. Shaxs, aka Big Bad Bajoran Battle Zaddy, aka the Bajoran beefstick, sacrificed his life for the sake of the crew. Capt. Freeman holds a memorial for him, and commiserates with Mariner in her office afterwards. She abruptly takes her daughter to task for her insubordination and secret stashes of contraband, but admits that there’s a strength in her flagrant disregard for rules and regulations. Together they decide to work together instead of being at each other’s throats, deciding unanimously not to tell Mariner’s father.
They join some of the crew at the bar, and the Fave Four bond over the whole affair. Tendi and Rutherford gleefully get reacquainted, and Boimler admits to seeing the value in Mariner’s recklessness. Before sweeping Mariner off to get drunk, Riker interrupts them and slides Boimler a tablet, offering him a position on the Titan. He takes it, of course, and quite naturally, Mariner is livid, wrapping up season one of Lower Decks with a plot twist none of us were expecting.
This inaugural season has been a proverbial love letter to the Star Trek franchise, complete with enough Easter Eggs to make even the most jaded Trekker happy. But can it last? What can we look forward to in season 2? Who will be the Cerritos’ new tactical officer? Will Rutherford ever regain his memory? How will Mariner adjust to life in the spotlight? Will we ever find out what happened to the light being in Capt. Freeman’s chest?