Star Trek: Lower Decks S2E01 – Strange Energies Review
STAR TREK series rarely start their seasons firing on all cylinders, even – actually make that especially – when they are resolving a cliffhanger and while STRANGE ENERGIES isn’t the second part of a cliffhanger ending to the first season of STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS, there are some unresolved plot threads that the episode barely acknowledges in favour of just having an absolute ball rifling through the franchise’s back catalogue.
When finalising second contact with the supposedly unremarkable world of Apergos, Mariner accidentally revives aeons old technology resulting in Commander Ransom getting zapped with strange energy and developing god-like powers. Meanwhile, Tendi grows concerned that Rutherford’s new implant has changed his personality.
The episode opens with a gloriously kinetic visit to another of Mariner’s unique holodeck exercise programmes, taking a big friendly swing at TNG’s Chain Of Command in the process. Mariner’s using the exercise to work out the stress that her newfound closeness with her mother – Captain of the Cerritos – is causing her. It’s a wonderfully observed character piece, that plays out through the rest of the episode, as Mariner slowly comes to realise that the newfound latitude and freedom she has by asking permission is nowhere near as fulfilling as thumbing her nose at authority and apologising afterwards. Ripping and riffing directly from “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, the mainstay of the episode sees Jerry O’Connell’s Jack Ransom parabolic course to godhood and back again with a run of gags which, while funny, probably would have been a lot funnier had RICK AND MORTY not beaten the show to the punch with CHILDRICK OF MORT.
Elsewhere, the Tendi/ Rutherford sub-plot feels a little lacklustre although much truer to the series’ principles as they work out their small problems while the deus ex obiliscus happens in the background. And although his absence is referenced a few times, on a metatextual level the episode underlines how much the show needs Boimler around. For now, though, we’ll have to content ourselves with a bravura coda as Boimler discovers that life on the Titan isn’t everything he hoped it might be.
STRANGE ENERGIES opens the second season in confident form, willing and indeed eager to dip into the lore for visual and verbal gags aplenty (this Wrath Of Khan fanatic was disproportionately delighted to see the bridge of a Miranda-class starship recreated in perfect animated detail right down to the scalloped upholstery of the command chairs) but the decisions made at the end of last season, partially but not comprehensively reversed in STRANGE ENERGIES are acting as something of a headwind and it feels like season two of LOWER DECKS won’t really engage until our heroes are back together below decks.