Lower Decks Recap: “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris” (Season 2, Episode 3)

One of the most common criticisms of Star Trek: Lower Decks is the monotonous way the Fave Four are paired. In this latest episode, we not only finally see a fresh pairing and a blast from the past, but we also learn more about our favorite ensigns…

Back home aboard the USS Cerritos, Ensign Boimler (Jack Quaid) struggles as the computer’s security protocols refuse to recognize his voice after upgrades due to Pak’led attacks. Ensign Tendi (Noël Wells) scarfs down breakfast to get a head start on work as Ensign Mariner (Tawny Newsome) joins Ensign Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) at their table. Abruptly, Lt. Shaxs (Fred Tatasciore) walks by like we didn’t see him die in a fiery blaze during the first season finale. Rutherford is understandably upset by this, but no one else seems to be bothered at all…

Tendi all but scrubs the bulkheads with a toothbrush in an attempt to impress Dr. T’Ana (Gillian Vigman). T’Ana is more on edge than usual, and sends Tendi on a mission to a storage locker on Qualor II to retrieve a family heirloom.

Meanwhile, in their favorite cargo bay, Mariner helps Rutherford with a project when Boimler enters with a collection of Voyager commemorative plates. Stoked that Lt. Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) is onboard the Cerritos on a morale mission, Boimler hopes to get his plate signed by Captain Proton himself. Rutherford sets out to confront Shaxs about coming back from the dead, and Tendi asks Mariner to join her for T’Ana’s away mission. Operation: Girl’s Trip activated!!

Boimler’s having a real hard time moving through the ship as doors and voice recognition is still ignoring him. The turbo lift refuses him, and Boimler steels his resolve and heads for the bridge via Jeffries tubes.

On Qualor II, Tendi and Mariner learn more about each other as they find T’Ana’s package. Curious, they discover it’s a Caitian libido post. Goofing off, Mariner accidentally breaks it, and together they set out to find someone who can fix it.

Back on the Cerritos, Rutherford sees Shaxs in engineering and almost riles up enough courage to ask how he came back. Before he can get a chance to, another officer beats him to it, and the senior officers read him the riot act for being nosy. Rutherford quickly changes his mind, but is only more curious than he was before…

Mariner and Tendi go to a remote outpost in search of someone to fix T’Ana’s now-decapitated libido post. When faced with a fee of 50 bars of gold-pressed latinum, Mariner decides to challenge Nausicaans to a game of dom jot. The ensigns win the game, but the Nausicaans refuse to pay and smash the head of the libido post. Mariner and Tendi gather the pieces and hurry back to the shuttle.

Meanwhile, Boimler is still crawling and climbing his way to the bridge. Paris arrives and asks to try a hand at the helm, firing up a system that nearly kills Boimler in the process. He survives and pushes on, showing a level of resolve from Boimler we didn’t see before heading to the Titan…

Tendi sulks about the state of the mission, until she remembers a cousin on a pirate outpost that might be able to help. She warns Mariner about Orion’s deep hatred for humans, and decides to change Mariner’s skin tone to a shade of green for the mission. Mariner agrees, but only if Tendi promises not to take any photos of her in… well, greenface.

Boimler continues to shimmy his way through the guts of the ship, as Rutherford is plagued by the cadre of possibilities surrounding the reason for Shaxs coming back to life. Unable to take the unknown, he rushes off to find him to request an explanation.

At the Orion outpost, Tendi and Mariner bring the post to Tendi’s cousin for repair. Mariner is instantly attracted to the burly Orion, stating that she was into “bad boys”. Tendi is taken aback, and Mariner goes on to confirm that she has a type, stating attraction to bad boys, girls, non-binary babes, and a plethora of additional identities. Tendi shows us her cultural roots, and dominates her cousin into fixing the post. Before Mariner can inquire about Tendi’s life, her green starts to fade. They realize they don’t know much about each other at all just as an angry mob notices Mariner’s natural skin tone. The ensigns grab the post and make a break for the shuttle.

Still in the Jeffries tubes, Boimler is trapped by security. Hallucinating because of the fumes, he has an encouraging conversation with his Tom Paris plate, and sets to figure out a solution. Mariner and Tendi narrowly escape the outpost, losing most of the libido post in the attempt. After scaling an elevator shaft, they make a break for the Cerritos.

Rutherford spots Shaxs alone and confronts him, asking why he came back. Shaxs is reluctant at first, then explains that surviving officers are spared the horrors of the death experience for a multitude of reasons. Intrigued, Rutherford insists, and Shaxs proceeds to blow Rutherford’s mind with the truth.

Boimler, looking more than a little ragged, eventually crashes through the ceiling of the bridge. Clearly still triggered from his experiences in the Delta Quadrant, Paris confuses Boimler with a Kazon and tackles him.

On the way back to the Cerritos, Mariner and Tendi confide in each other, lamenting about how much they don’t really know each other. Mariner explains her attachment issues, and Tendi confesses her tendency to people-please. As far as the mission, Tendi resolves herself to tell Dr. T’Ana the truth. Mariner thinks it’s a terrible plan, and puts the shuttle on a collision course with the ship instead. No one gets hurt, of course, but Mariner always has a flare for the dramatic…

Mariner’s plan works. In the aftermath, we learn that Dr. T’Ana was more interested in the box than the actual post. Taking the box back to her office in sick bay, T’Ana has a super cute moment of If It Fits, I Sits, calming her down almost instantly.

Blaming the slight collision on a ‘bee in the cockpit’, Mariner earns herself a night in the brig. Tendi brings a selection of Klingon acid punk to listen to, and Rutherford is visibly still shaken by what Shaxs has told him. Boimler enters, sporting a black eye and a big smile, thrilled that the ship recognizes him. To add to his excitement, Paris is taking him out for drinks as an apology for the beat down.

We learn a great deal during this episode. Not only do we discover that Lower Decks is timed after the return of the USS Voyager from the Delta Quadrant, we learn a bit more about Orions, Caitians, what happens after death, and that there’s a genre of Klingon acid punk. We learn that Mariner has served on Deep Space Nine, and that both Quark and Vic Fontaine have locations across the quadrant. Anyone who’s ever complained about the pairings of our Fave Four can now relax, as the writers have cleverly addressed the critique. Anyone who’s ever complained about how heterosexual the characters are can also now relax, as Beckett Mariner is canonically pansexual. The writers on this show seem to have their fingers on the pulse of the fandom, and maybe, just maybe, we should trust their process.

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