This week, Lower Decks gives a glimpse into the calmer side of life on a starship. During a 12 hour stretch through eventless space, Capt. Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) gives the crew of the Cerritos some well-earned downtime. Ensign Boimler (Jack Quaid) joins our Fave Four in the bar to determine just how they’ll pass the time together. To his disappointment, Boimler learns that his friends each are paired with senior officers, or ‘bridge buddies’ for the duration of the trip, forcing him to try and make new friends. Boimler remarks about the established social structures of ships in other cultures, wishing he could serve on a Klingon ship instead. Ensign Mariner (Tawny Newsome) insists that Boimler wouldn’t enjoy the conditions on a Klingon ship, despite what he thinks.
We quickly cut to the lower decks of the Che’Ta’, a Klingon Bird of Prey. Four Klingons lounge in their bunks, until one, M’ach, is violently awoken by his comrade. Together they gripe about the day’s duties, but M’ach is thrilled for his duty on the bridge, eager to seize an opportunity to be first officer. Citing the insubordination of their current second in command, M’ach declares that he’d be the most “logical choice” as next in line. His crew mates laugh outwardly at him, roasting him for trying to apply logic to a situation like he served on a Vulcan ship.
We then cut to the lower decks of the Sh’vhal, a Vulcan science cruiser. There, four Vulcan officers discuss plans after their duties have been completed. One officer, T’Lyn, notes an anomaly in her enhanced sensor readings. Her colleagues warn her about thinking outside of the box, but T’Lyn insists on notifying their captain about her findings.
Back on the Che’Ta’, M’ach steps onto the bridge just as the captain neutralizes his uppity first officer. M’ach leaps at the opportunity to lend a hand, slowly dragging the dead Klingon off the bridge.
On the Cerritos, Boimler attempts to schmooze with Lt. Kayshon (Carl Tart) in the bar, but accidentally stumbles over his Tamarian and winds up insulting the officer instead. Boimler then sets off on a quest to join his friends on their outings with their bridge buddies, hoping to find someone high-ranking with which to spend the time. He tries to join Ensign Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) in his pottery class with Lt. Shaxs (Fred Tatasciore), but accidentally triggers Shaxs with mentions of Bajor. Rutherford holds him off while urging Boimler to leave while he still can.
On the Che’Ta’, M’ach tries again to cozy up to the captain. He attempts to bond with him by complimenting his targ and citing great battles, but ends up getting tasked with fetching more blood wine.
Meanwhile on the Sh’vhal, T’Lyn is being dressed down by her captain for not only augmenting sensor parameters without authorization, but for suggesting that they change course to investigate the source of the anomalous readings. The captain agrees to the change of course, but chastises T’Lyn for her emotional “outbursts”, assigning her to two days of meditation to correct her behavior.
Back on the Cerritos, Boimler joins Ensign Tendi (Noël Wells) and Dr. T’Ana (Gillian Vigman) on the holodeck in their mountain climbing program. Just as T’Ana scolds him for not wearing the appropriate gear, Boimler’s hoverboots go awry sending him plummeting into the trees below. Nursing his wounds, Boimler passes Capt. Freeman’s holodeck program and joins unannounced. He instantly realizes his mistake as he steps right into an intense round of target practice between the captain and her daughter, Mariner. Elbows-deep in a heated mother-daughter debate, Freeman and Mariner continue target practice without noticing Boimler scrambling at the controls to be let out of the room. Finally free, Boimler saunters to the turbolift, shoulders slumped in defeat.
On the lift, Boimler eavesdrops on the conversation between Cmmdr. Ransom (Jerry O’Connel) and two other officers as they reminisce about life on Hawai’i. Boimler plays along, convincing them that he too is Hawaiian, earning himself an invitation to their get together later that afternoon.
Meanwhile, on the Che’Ta’, M’ach returns to the mess hall with a new barrel of blood wine. Just as he drags it to the table, an older, larger warrior collapses on top of him in a drunken heap. The remaining officers clear out as he struggles under the old man’s weight. The captain tasks him with walking his targ, as the beast has eaten the former first officer’s leg and needs to be, well…walked.
On the Sh’vhal, T’Lyn sits alone in a meditation chamber as her work tablet beeps beside her. She breaks her concentration to work just as her colleagues join her in the chamber. There’s some frosty Vulcan banter about the need for conformity over ingenuity, making it clear that T’Lyn’s work ethic is more than Vulcan protocol can handle.
Back on the Cerritos, Rutherford and Tendi give Boimler a hard time for lying about his “Hawaiian origins”. Mariner reminds him that he wanted to find a bridge buddy, but Tendi and Rutherford gently remind him that his integrity is more important than having the commander as a friend. Of course, Boimler doesn’t listen, and nervously joins the lu’au on the holodeck.
On the Che’Ta’, M’ach brings Captain Dorg his targ after their walk. The captain laments about the peaceful state of the empire, longing for the glory of the battles of old ways. M’ach agrees that Klingons have lost their blood lust, earning the captain’s approval and a promotion to first officer. They’re interrupted by an incoming transmission from a nearby Pak’led ship, M’ach learns that his captain has been supplying the Pak’leds with weaponry, fueling their attack on Starfleet and the Federation. M’ach protests, stating that Klingons do not allow others to fight their battles for them, challenging the captain’s involvement with the Pakleds assault on Starfleet. He dismisses M’ach’s questioning as they beam over to the Pakled ship.
In her quarters, Freeman hosts Mariner and their game of starship murder mystery board game when they receive a notification from the bridge. Long range sensors have detected anomalous energy readings nearby, and both Freeman and Mariner leap at the mention of some action.
On the Pak’led ship, Pak’led, Captain Rebner requests another Varuvian bomb from the Klingons, since they’d already test-detonated the first one. M’ach reminds the captain that a Varuvian bomb would leave emissions of metreon particles that would surely draw the attention of passersby.
As if on cue, the Cerritos arrives to investigate. Assuming that the Pakleds were harassing the Klingons, Freeman hails the Bird of Prey to offer their assistance. The Pakled and the Che’Ta’ turn and fire on the Cerritos as the crew springs to action. Boimler and the “Hawaiians” are trapped on deck 6, causing the ensign to finally break down and admit the truth. Admitting that he just wanted to be accepted, the other officers admit the same, earning Ransom’s honest seal of approval. He then admits that he’s not Hawaiian either, but that he’s from the moon. Everyone but Boimler reveals their lunar origins, leaving Boimler out again. They go to chastise him for comparing Modesto, CA to the moon, only for him to scold them and their cultural insensitivity for claiming to be Hawaiian.
From the bridge of the Che’Ta’, Capt. Dorg watches with delight as the Pakleds continue to fire on the Cerritos. M’ach outright protests, and Dorg smacks him around for his insolence. Just as things are looking grim for the Cerritos, the Sh’vhal drops out of warp just in time to deflect some of the fire from the damaged starship.
The combined heavy weaponry of the bird of prey and the clumpship are dishing out quite a bit of damage to the shields of the Sh’val, and T’Lyn reminds her captain that her project was for shield harmonic enhancement. She insists that it would be a logical opportunity to test the array under such extreme duress. The captain reluctantly agrees, and the Vulcan’s shields regenerate almost immediately.
Capt. Dorg eagerly awaits the destruction of the Cerritos and the Sh’vhal, earning more protests from M’ach. When Dorg orders a direct assault on the Cerritos, M’ach intervenes. Having enough, the two of them fight it out. M’ach ultimately wins, and orders the ship back to Qo’noS so the High Council can determine what to do with Dorg’s treachery.
Watching the Che’Ta’ retreat, the Cerritos joins the Sh’vhal in disabling the Pakled. Capt. Freeman moves to thank the Vulcans before they hurry off. She orders repairs and resolves to report this latest Klingon/Pakled development to Starfleet Command.
On the Sh’vhal, the captain both congratulates T’Lyn for her ingenuity before scolding her for the very same thing. He informs her that she’s being reassigned to a Starfleet vessel, in hopes that she will thrive in a less structured environment.
Back on the Cerritos, Boimler laments that he’s missed his chance to bond with Ransom and his moon buddies. Mariner consoles him, resolving to do something together the next time they had a long warp. Appreciative but still sullen, Boimler goes to the bar for another round. There, he’s approached by a young cadet who’s requesting help organizing his duty roster. The cadet claims that Ransom suggested that he talk to Boimler, the most detail-oriented officer on the ship.
This episode did a fantastic job of showing us the nuances of how different cultures interact with the officers serving on the lower decks. Each ship had its own protocol to observe, and each one had a prime example of how influential officers on the lower decks can be. It also reminded us that the Pakleds are not some toss-away villain-of-the-week. Caught off guard, the Cerritos probably wouldn’t have survived that encounter had the Vulcans not showed up when they did. Hopefully Starfleet will take the Pakled threat seriously by the season finale, as continuing to underestimate them would be highly illogical.