I'm a fan of clever, ambitious scripts. Twist a trope, flip a stereotype, bend an allegory. Do it well and you get all the props.
However, in the case of Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 Episode 8, I feel like what was attempted needed another twenty minutes to properly blossom.
And I think the writers recognized that too. Why else would they draw attention to the twenty-two minutes Clar had booked the etching silo for?
Still, self-immolation -- even pretty funny self-immolation -- doesn't buy you a pass on lazy writing. You know you have twenty-two minutes. Make it work.
The trial trope is set up pretty well. Everything about the setting -- lighting, staging, acoustics -- screamed,"Defend your right to exist!"
Boimler: Creepy stone walls. Jagged metal bars. This has 'alien prison' written all over it!
Rutherford: A prison? Nah, no way, man. This is a dungeon.
Boimler: That's even worse!
Unfortunately, this follows directly on the heels of Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 Episode 7 and the whole "we should probably spruce up the Division 14 freak ship" comment so it feels like a rehashed plot twist.
Kurtwood Smith as the alien Clar is fantastic AND a huge Star Trek alum get.
Before his turn at K'Tuevon Prime party planning, Mr. Red Forman of That 70's Show fame has played not one, not two, but THREE different Star Trek characters, spanning a film and two different series.
I tried to be reasonable. I tried to get to the truth. Today didn't have to end in eels!Clar
I believe this is the first time he gets to threaten anyone with eels though. Correct me if I'm wrong.
Fun fact: Based on the stardates demanded by Clar, Rutherford's Bird of Prey adventure actually occured before the acquisition of the Neutral Zone map from the Kligates (sp?) and their ship, the Twerk.
While there's a lot to enjoy in the avalanche of plothole questions heaped on Freeman in her final scene, I'd add to that barrage the obvious ones that arose out of Mariner's tale of the Kligate.
First, why is the captain asking a couple of ensigns for suggestions on how to handle a hostile alien encounter?
Second, how did she not know how the Kligate would react to expressions of gratitude?
Lastly, why does she think inviting them over for a meal is going to work?
Boimler: I'm not faking on the bridge! That's insane!
Mariner: The captain already knows what she wants you to do so just nod and agree with her or we'll all end up getting kicked off the ship and then we'll have to live on Earth where there's nothing to do except drink wine and hang out at soul food restaurants.
All of the ensigns' accounts share the common purposes of both frustrating Clar with their irrelevance to his purpose and illustrating how unaware the senior crew are of those they command.
Mariner's testimony tells a lot by what doesn't happen. No one on the bridge noticed that Mariner and Boimler failed to report for the red alert in a timely manner.
Rutherford's highlights the fact neither the Chief Engineer nor the Head of Security notices that he's blinking in and out of consciousness throughout their mission.
Shaxs: What are you doing?
Rutherford: My best?
To be fair, Rutherford's not always portrayed as the most with-it member of the crew. Being completely lost in the midst of a major interplanetary ship heist would look completely natural on him.
What's frustrating about Rutherford's turn at the Horn of Candor is we never find out how he got away from the Gorn wedding.
Also, if they crashed the Bird of Prey they stole from the Vulcan museum, how was Tendi's team able to use it to rescue Clar?
Tendi's mistaken recruitment answers the question of whether Ransom knows Mariner is Freeman's daughter or not.
Despite being the First Officer, who really should have a pretty comprehensive knowledge of all the crew's files, Ransom mistakes a medical ensign as a special ops cleaner.
At least he didn't (really) hit on her.
(And, to be fair, he knows exactly who Mariner is in the sense that she drives him nuts.)
Tendi's mission and the martial arts skills she trots out in a pinch was pretty outrageous despite the redacting.
Furthermore, her Pollyanna attitude remains unshaken as she returns to cleaning Billups' conference chair with the same enthusiasm as breaking into a Romulan base.
Clar: Are you so stubborn that you're willing to risk death by eels?
Tendi: Yes, that's correct.
Clar: Then, continue.
Leaving Boimler to speak truth to power is pretty contrived.
I mean, he was primarily concerned about missing his pottery class in the first scene.
Although he does get my favorite line from this outing.
Hello? Could someone give us some context in here please?Boimler
Once he's blurted out the truth of why Clar can't get the information he wants from the ensigns, there's really no stopping the Boimler Show.
From the brutal honesty about their "mushroom" existence (ie. kept in the dark and fed sh*t) to the examples of how the senior crew mess up, all the trivial knowledge he's stored from his studying comes pouring out.
(Which makes one wonder why he fracked up so badly when asked for tactical analysis on the bridge.)
We're Lower Decks. No one ever tells us what's going on. We're not important enough to have anything to lie to you about.Boimler
And that oh-so-fabulous cameo teased on Star Trek Day finally arrived and it was every bit as ridonkulous as we would expect.
John deLancie never fails to chew up the scenery when Q makes an appearance and, even in animated form, it was throughly gratifying to have him return in all his Grand Inquisitor grandeur.
He's been mentioned multiple times already and the fact that he's familiar enough to Mariner for her to tell him to shove off is highly intriguing.
Q: I challenge you all to a duel. Pick your weapons! I pick the mind.
Mariner: Get out of here, Q! No, we're done with random stuff today! We're not dealing with any of your Q bullsh*t!
Q: Oh, s'il vous plait, Mariner, I want to put humanity to the ultimate test.
Mariner: I'm not French! Go find Picard!
Q: Oh, Picard! He's no fun. He's always quoting Shakespeare. He's always making wine...
Anyone else notice how much wine-drinking is referenced? In a future full of synthahol, it's feels like vineyards might've made a comeback.
It's always worth the time to watch Star Trek: Lower Decks online but I have to reiterate that this might (knock on wood) be a low point for the season DESPITE deLancie's return as Q.
No, wait, Q's appearance(s) was part of the problem. There was just TOO much.
Yes, Q was great.
Yes, Ransom getting attacked by the salt vampire was hilarious.
The Gorn wedding, T'Ana's mirror universe moment, the fan dance, Rutherford's Klingon font upgrade, space walking on a cloaked ship.
It was all great material but it was too much for one twenty-two minute episode.
So much was too much and it left the resolution, the reveal of the true nature of Clar's event, hanging like an also-ran.
It would've worked better as a two-parter if the writers really couldn't bear to part with everything they'd poured into the narrative.
Ultimately, Mariner summed it up best, touting the joys of ignorance.
Honestly, this is fine with me. Knowing things means more work.Mariner
How did this surprise party play out for you?
Which easter egg was your favorite?
Who wins the bad-ass debate? Roga Danar or KHAAAAAAAAAN?
I'm Team Vash, personally.
Transmit your thoughts and feedback into the comments on your strongest subspace frequency! Make it so!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.