Star Trek: Lower Decks has reached something of a milestone.
It no longer goes to ridiculous lengths to force its comedy. Instead, the laughs on Star Trek: Lower Decks are, well, organic.
They come from what we know of the characters, and what we understand about them.
With the show’s fourth episode, ‘Moist Vessel,’ the relationship between Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) and Ensign Mariner (Tawny Newsome) takes center stage.
And for the first time since the premiere, mother and daughter have the bridge.
After Mariner embarrasses Freeman in front of a visiting captain, Freeman becomes more determined than ever to get Mariner off her ship.
But the conventional things aren’t working. Ransom (Jerry O’Connell) assigns her to every crummy detail on the Cerritos in hopes of getting her to quit.
Even holodeck waste extraction. Which we’re led to believe is – well, if you know what the holodeck is? And how you would use one? You know what we’re led to believe it is.
But what brings Mariner to the breaking point isn’t the crappiest jobs on the ship. As we’ve come to expect from Star Trek: Lower Decks, Mariner finds a way to have fun with the worst details. So Freeman condemns Mariner to the worst possible fate. She promotes Mariner to lieutenant and makes her a senior officer.
Naturally, Boimler (Jack Quaid) gets pretty jealous. But the ensuing weekly crisis helps strengthen the relationship between Mariner and Freeman.
There’s a B-story about Tendi (Noel Wells) ruining a crewman’s spiritual awakening that doesn’t really go anywhere. It just provides a diversion during the Cerritos’s newest crisis – a substance that instantly terraforms inorganic matter.
The script for ‘Moist Vessel’ isn’t one of the fastest-moving Star Trek: Lower Decks scripts to date. But it is probably the most thoughtful. And heartfelt.
Ann Kim’s script alleviates all the concerns I had from the closing moments of the Lower Deck premiere. Even though I saw it coming a mile away, the revelation of Mariner as Freeman’s daughter didn’t exactly inspire me.
Now, as someone who grew weary of the Red Angel on Discovery and then the – well, the Doctor Octopus arms and androids and Borg and Romulans on Picard? The idea of the slacker being the captain’s daughter was a simple, refreshing change of pace. At least as pertains to season-long story threads. But what I worried would be an overbearing shadow across the whole season has barely been a blip on the radar.
Star Trek: Lower Decks has been smart about playing the Mariner/Freeman relationship how they need to and when they need to. Nothing has been forced, allowing the comedy in ‘Moist Vessel’ to be pretty organic. Ironic, considering the terraforming theme.
It’s a script that serves Boimler well enough. He gets one little moment of deciding to try the “reverse psychology” approach for himself. And, as mentioned, the Tendi subplot doesn’t really go anywhere.
But that’s fine, because our A-story is pretty top-notch in ‘Moist Vessel.’ In fact, Mariner getting dragged from one senior officer function to another was pretty great.
Red alert. Tawny Newsome toned it down a notch for this week’s Star Trek: Lower Decks.
It had more to do with the subject matter of the episode. Going through the rigors of a senior officer, Mariner didn’t have as many jokes for Newsome to step on. But I felt like she handled the material she did have well.
The star again is Lewis as Captain Freeman. This is much more of a Mariner episode as opposed to last week’s Freeman-centric campaign. But Freeman is the conduit to the comedy in ‘Moist Vessel.’ And Lewis handles it very well.
And while her story isn’t particularly important or interesting to the episode, Wells brings some new dimensions to Tendi. One of my earlier criticisms of Star Trek: Lower Decks was that Tendi wasn’t playing a more pivotal role.
After all, the new girl tends to be the protagonist in most shows. And Tendi just seems to kind of be there. But with ‘Moist Vessel,’ Star Trek: Lower Decks took advantage of Wells’s talents. She remained saccharin sweet but showed some depth. In other words, Tendi gets mad when you don’t acknowledge her positively for being saccharin sweet.
It’s a neat character trait. Although not one they can take advantage of very often. But it gives Tendi more range, and Wells plays it strong.
I can’t imagine I have a ton of support on the subject. But I still hold that Star Trek: Lower Decks is the best of this New Trek, CBS All Access era.
It has the most human characters. The most relatable situations. And far tighter script work – from a plot perspective – than of any of its contemporary sister shows.
The writing improves every week. As does the acting.
As long as Star Trek: Lower Decks can maintain this streak and remain this organically-funny? There’s no reason it can’t continue boldy going.
New episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks stream every Thursday on CBS All Access.
All images courtesy of startrek.com.
'Star Trek: Lower Decks' - Moist Vessel
- Tawny Newsome toned it down this week
- The relationship between Mariner and Freeman was handled really well
- An interesting and funny script
- None of the humor seemed forced
- The Tendi subplot wasn't particularly interesting