Star Trek Lower Decks Recap: Reflections
Star Trek: Lower Decks‘ the third season struggled to find a points for itself, regressing his ensign hero and relying on the charms of its pastiche rather than the growth of its characters to find something to say – a charm that was beginning to runs out quickly. Luckily, halfway through the season, he decided to remind us why we love this show in the first place.
In fact, if anything, everything What I could possibly complain about in “Reflections” is that its A and B plots were so interesting and well executed that I almost wish they both had their own episodes to focus on – but after four weeks of uncertain doubt on the show, I’ll gladly take “literally too many good things happening” as a concern.
That’s because “Reflections” delivers on three key fronts that have been sorely lacking from Lower decks‘ third season, tormented as she’s been by back and forth about exactly what she wants to do with her ensign the protagonists, awkwardly diverting their earlier growth as characters to tread water. First, there’s the delivery of a brutally funny, scathing, yet affectionate indictment of what the heck Starfleet is in the A-plot, which sees Boimler and Mariner assigned to Starfleet’s recruiting stand on a nearby planet, only to have their marketing pitches sketched by a dashing freelance archaeologist named Petra Aberdeen (guest star Georgia King)—star trek likes a sassy archaeologist once in a while, of course. Then, in plot B, there’s the long-awaited exploration of Rutherford’s past and his implant, when an attempt to fix a series of sleepless nights leads to his body being taken over by a rebellious remnant of his psyche from his pre-Starfleet youth. Finally, there’s the fact that both of these storylines actually culminate in the promise of real growth for two of our main characters. Look at this! It’s a TV episode right there, and it only took half the season to get there.
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Let’s dive a little deeper into the plot A. Mariner is consigned at the recruiting booth by Ransom as part of its ongoing performance management, and the key struggle here is she must balance her job – presenting Starfleet to locals as an exciting adventure – while neighbor Petra, from hersthe stand of the guild of archaeologists, skillfully skewers all these promises. It’s the kind of deeply cheesy humor that Lower decks is at its best with: not necessarily liking the pastiche of star trek, but the questions we all constantly think about his world. In this case, it’s mainly whether or not Starfleet is the exploratory scientific organization it introduces people to, or whether it’s really the quasi-military one that…well, it really is. Can Starfleet really be all about discovering the unknown country, as Mariner is forced to bleat, if most of the time it’s actually about trying not to be assimilated by the Borg, or having arguments with the Klingons, or the Romulans, or the Cardassians (a powerful reminder that Lower decks isn’t *that* a far cry from the aftermath of the Dominion War!)? Can a career in Starfleet really promise security, freedom, and scientific curiosity if it acts and dresses like a military man? And just why do they change those damn things every few years?
Hilariously, it’s not Mariner who breaks under this needle, but Boimler, who loses all his shit when a passing outpost scientist mocks his rank and strips him of his uniform. Just as fan-based as Petra and bystanderss Starfleet needling as a recruiting drive, Boimler’s furious defensese of why Starfleet still matters also came out of the fan debates. Instead of nudging us if we know which one star trek the show refers to, it’s the first piece of pastiche this season that really looks like Lower decks at its best: treating its characters as star trek fans who happen to exist in star trek.
That’s not the only twist on this idea “Reflections” has though. JThe B-plot reveals exactly what caused a bolder personality to overtake Rutherford’s body: a pre-implanted version of his younger self, an Academy skiver who used his engineering prowess not to prepare for a career in space, but to build and pilot illegal ships. In many ways, while Rutherford’s inner selves bicker over who will be able to control their body – his implants and damaged brain mean there’s only room for one – there are parallels with the needling between Petra and Mariner in plot A. What happened to himself, young Rutherford wonders, that he went from an angry, rebellious man to the compliance of a nerdy growl of Starfleet who would rather say “oopsie doodle” than “shit?” How did he go from using his engineering abilities to follow his own passions to someone willing to spend his life solving someone else’s problems? What could be worth living this life for his angry and passionate young self?
The answer, as revealed by Rutherford’s metaphysical race to control their singular body, is ultimately the friendships Samanthan has formed between his fellow Lower Deckers. He is no longer angry as he once was, with the world around him or with himself, and he’s not alone anymore – he’s channeling his passions healthily instead of something that could have gotten him killed. “I Have Friends Who Care About Me” Could Be The Romance Conclusion To Finally Be Able To Explore Rutherford’s Past, Just As Mariner Doesn’t Fall In Love With Petra – Eventually, We Learn she was trying to cause a scene so she could steal an artifact (none other than the Ferengi Grand Nagus staff – how did Ferenginar lose that!?) – is in plot A that would leave Lower decks comfortably tuck this growth under the bed like an isolated story arc. Thankfully, “Reflections” excels at letting those revelations linger. Mariner sees Petra, after her mother and superiors have told her for years that they don’t think she can turn into Starfleet, as a potential escape to a life better suited for her, even if it means leaving her friends behind her. Meanwhile, Rutherford dislodges the memory that he received his implant, revealing that it was the result of an accident on a secret Starfleet project and was designed to conceal his involvement in it.
These are real, tangible plot threads for Lower decks‘ third season to continue operating, and most importantly, they finally reflect a level of growth for our characters beyond one-off adventures. It’s something that, so far, the third season clearly struggled to articulate, as it went back to what these characters should be at this point. We can only hope he can keep that energy going for the rest of the season.
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