Thursday, August 6, 2020

REVIEW: 'Star Trek: Lower Decks' - Ensigns Boimler and Mariner Clash Over Starfleet's Regulations in 'Second Contact'

CBS All Access' Star Trek: Lower Decks - Episode 1.01 "Second Contact"

Ensign Tendi has her first day of work on Starfleet's U.S.S. Cerritos, where she meets fellow support crew members, Ensigns Mariner, Boimler and Rutherford. Meanwhile, Boimler is tasked with a secret special assignment and Rutherford attempts to keep his dating life intact while a sci-fi disaster strikes the ship.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of CBS All Access' Star Trek: Lower Decks.

"Second Contact" was written by Mike McMahan and directed by Barry J. Kelly

CBS All Access has quickly become home to an expanding Star Trek universe. It has offered more serialized tales set in this grand world. As such, it's a massive tonal adjustment to jump from Discovery and Picard to Lower Decks. The most obvious difference is the animation format. This show is hoping to appeal to a slightly different audience while also going for the more comedic take on the various science fiction adventures. The crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos essentially turn into zombies during this premiere. That's the big disaster that befalls the ship. That highlights how things always seem to be going wrong for Starfleet. It's up to the officers to decide how to react even though that often puts a strain on the workers in the lower decks. When Boimler returns with the magical solution, the Captain doesn't see him as a person. Instead, he is simply the delivery mechanism to get this sludge into the system. That could very well start a conversation about challenging the power structure even in a vast and expanding world like Star Trek's. Starfleet exists in order to explore and lead by science. It's magical and uplifting. It can be scary and precarious as well. The lives of the crew can frequently be in danger. Boimler and Mariner are running for their lives at one point during second contact with a new planet. They have engaged with a local creature that terrifies them. In the end, they are never in any real danger. It's mostly an excuse to show off the animation style and the humor derived from the creative team on this project. It works but still feels incredibly introductory and forced. Boimler feels a sense of importance. He has dreams of becoming a captain. He will achieve that by mastering and memorizing all of the rules and regulations of Starfleet. He too doesn't see the officers as human beings with personal failings. He thinks it's special and significant when Captain Freeman calls upon him to handle an important mission. She is really just using him to spy on her daughter. That is the big reveal of this premiere. Mariner may constantly be breaking the rules and causing trouble. However, she is also the daughter of two Starfleet captains. They don't quite know what to do with her because she is a troublemaker who doesn't have the same perspective on the world as they do. That too indicates a sense of generational divisions. The Starfleet of the present is managed by one group while the younger generation is looking to the future with aspirational ideals and the willingness to do things differently. Mariner needs to give suppliers to the farmers on this planet. Boimler sees her as breaking protocol. He has been warned to look out for such insubordinate actions. In reality though, Mariner inspires Boimler to take action. Not every decision is cut or dry. He fears anything coming back to hurt him. And yet, he has to think about himself from time to time as well. That is depicted wonderfully in the subplot with Rutherford going on a date. It continues to go well for him even though they are fighting off their colleagues who have become zombies. It swells passionately. But he is also more focused on figuring out why things are failing around the ship when they shouldn't be. He has a focused mind like that. He doesn't pick up on some social clues. But he still knows how to enjoy the world around him. Plus, Tendi is the newcomer to the crew who is extremely excited to be a member of Starfleet now. That passion is tangible. It may make her one-note in this premiere. And yet, that's perfectly fine for a show still establishing itself. She may be out of her depth in medical as this crisis hits. But she is still in awe that she got to pump a heart during her first day on the ship. This show has the willingness to be fun. The humor and narrative storytelling aren't completely there just yet. It relies heavily on the audience being aware of the Star Trek mythology while expecting us to be okay with a more comedic and light tone. It's a delicate balancing act. This premiere introduces the pieces. Now, the future has to be bold in how this ship and its crew evolve and interact with one another. It still fundamentally needs to embrace the earnestness that has made Star Trek a rousing success throughout the years.