Sometimes, the most exciting developments occur when you're least prepared for them, and Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 Episode 9 manages to delight viewers in both form and function in entirely unexpected ways.
By peeking in on the lower decks crews of not only the Cerritos, but the Klingon Bird of Prey, Che'Ta, and the Vulcan cruiser, Sh'Vhal, the universe suddenly seems more relatable as we compare and contrast the challenges and aspirations at the entry-level of starship crews.
It's the Trekkiest take on the "What If...?" game in that we get to ask, "What if Boimler was a Klingon?" and, "What if Mariner was a Vulcan?" and the answer is clearly that it's all freakin' awesome.
Mariner as a Vulcan is a bit of a no-brainer scenario because we've already seen how she'd fit in with a Klingon crew.
She'd obviously be a kick-ass, Alpha Klingon who could out-drink, out-fight, and out-yell anyone who got in her way.
Vulcan Captain: T'Lin, get a hold of yourself. These outbursts will not be tolerated. Two days. Work on your self-control. Through silent meditation.
T'Lin: Captain, I believe that I can modify ...
Vulcan Captain: Beliefs, feelings, instincts. You are behaving like a child.
Unfortunately, as a Vulcan, T'Lyn's maverick ways are not valued by her teammates even if her captain does take her recommendations to heart or head since they're Vulcan.
I suspect, like Mariner, T'Lyn's captain is probably her parent, as it would be highly illogical for her gut-based actions and oppositional attitude to be allowed to remain on board if there wasn't a familial responsibility built in there somewhere.
Klingon Boimler, on the other hand, is just as ambitious, protocol-savvy, and socially awkward as our O.G. purple-haired ensign.
Cerritos Boimler is surprisingly astute about how he'd thrive aboard a more socially structured ship.
Boimler: I wish I served on a ship that had built-in social structures like with Binars or Klingons.
Mariner: Um, have you ever been on a Klingon ship? I don't think you'd like it.
Boimler: They've been warping around the quadrant for centuries. I bet their lower decks are a lot nicer than you think.
Without navigating the intricate pathways of personal interactions and professional networking, Boimler's integrity would serve him well on ships crewed with honorable Klingons.
You are a true Klingon. You may be smaller and weaker, slower and smaller than my other officers, but you have a warrior's spirit.Klingon Captain
Like our scrawny but intrepid Bradward, Klingon Boimler is underestimated by those he serves with and under. It's his kind treatment of the captain's targ and his steadfast Klingon principles that win the day for him.
Fascinating. Boimler would very likely have achieved Captain rank already if he'd been born on Qo'noS instead of Modesto. Who woulda thunk it?
As a Vulcan, he might have done well with his rigid adherence to regulations and procedure, but he would never have stood out enough to be worthy of promotion.
Also, he's not a Science guy. I'm really not sure what happens to Vulcans who aren't sciencey.
Every ship in the fleet depends on officers like us to keep them running. The bridge crew is maybe the ones you hear about but, trust me, the real action begins on the lower decks.Boimler
He's really got some great leadership qualities, and the fact that Ransom directs the new recruit to him for guidance shows us that Ransom's actually got some too.
R&R plotlines offer us an opportunity to get to know characters out of uniform and out of their usual context. Ransom's a good example. He knows what it was like to be a thirsty ensign and get caught up in a lie to impress a senior officer.
Shaxs, if possible, is even more of a caricature in his recreational pursuits.
Shaxs: Take your neverending bonfire of rage and bury it in the clay.
Rutherford: Get out of here, rage!
The Mariner-Freeman bonding time is probably the most expected pairing of this contrived down-time device.
(Seriously, they've got twelve hours off, and they DON'T just bugger off to a holodeck spa?)
Ever since Mariner and Mom agreed not to force a nicey-nice work relationship on Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 Episode 1, I've been waiting to see what grievances they've stored up.
To be sure, Captain Freeman's pretty tightly wound, and Mariner's pretty much the only person she can really vent at/with, being family and all.
Mariner: I think it was the chef in the biolab with the sniper rifle that can shoot through walls.
Freeman: You always pick the chef.
Mariner: Yeah, because we have replicators. Why is there a chef? That's just shady.
The pure mundane ridiculousness of their gripes on the phaser range is brilliant. If I'd been Boimler, I would have escaped as fast as possible too. That's not a conversation you'd ever un-hear. Also, considering the participants, you'd be in constant danger if they knew they had a witness.
I appreciate that Mariner admits to enjoying some of the time she spent with Freeman. Moms need that.
Even Starfleet captain moms.
Freeman's assessment of the Pakled-Klingon situation shows that her deductive skills are probably wasted on second contact and dignitary transport. With her incoming report and Klingon Boimler's defeat of his treacherous captain, the High Council will have its political acumen stretched in the near future.
Strange how they broke off and retreated, though. Klingons typically want to die in battle. Honestly, I get it.Shaxs
And that brings us to speculation on how this season will wrap up.
My personal take is that this could very well have been a finale. It was innovative, memorable, and concluded the season's long arc in a fairly satisfying manner.
What more could they have in store?
Well... considering the voice talent they recruited for Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 Episode 8, they could very well have some stunning guests up their sleeves.
Also, I'm completing hypothesizing here -- they could use the finale to bridge into Star Trek: Prodigy, which premieres on October 28.
One hit animated Trek introducing the next big animated Trek? Wouldn't that be incredibly... logical?
Whatever direction they decide to take us, I'm confident in stating that this has been a successful sophomore excursion.
They've managed to innovate within the nostalgic goodwill of several generations of Trek fans, and that's no small feat.
To have cartoon characters develop and evolve on both personal and relationship levels is pretty impressive, too.
As we sight the season's end, what have been your biggest gripes and grins?
What are your expectations for the finale? Do you think T'Lyn will be assigned to the Cerritos?
Who's on your wishlist of guest voices or cameo aliens? Beam your thoughts aboard (in the comments)!
Diana Keng was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is a lifelong fan of smart sci-fi and fantasy media, an upstanding citizen of the United Federation of Planets, and a supporter of AFC Richmond 'til she dies. Her guilty pleasures include female-led procedurals, old-school sitcoms, and Bluey. She teaches, knits, and dreams big. Follow her on X.