Warp Factor Trek

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Have you gone back and reminded yourself of Season 1? If not, I suggest you do so before watching this week’s episode, as we open with a “Previously on” caption, and a replay from Act Two of the Season 1 finale, “No Small Parts”.

This fills us in on events involving a new recruit that Tendi had been mentoring, an Exocomp (from the TNG episode “The Quality of Life”) with the calculated mathematically perfect name of “Peanut Hamper”. As the recap shows, she refused to sacrifice herself to save the ship from attack by Pakleds, and instead beamed herself into space to lie low and watch her organic crewmates’ guts get ripped apart, only to see the ship rescued by the USS Titan.

After a recap of events from Peanut Hamper’s perspective, Lower Decks changes up its opening titles sequence for the first time ever, as Peanut drifts through the Pakled debris field (Paramount+)

Now, a little while later, Peanut Hamper has found another electronic device to have as a friend while floating among the wreckage and building a warp engine to find a place to go. However, this doesn’t last long, as a shipload of Drookmani scavengers (from the Season 1 episode “Terminal Provocations”) turn up to grab the wrecked Pakled ships and Peanut Hamper herself. She gets her warp drive working and flees the scavengers, but ends up crashing on an arboreal planet populated by humanoid bird-people. Don’t worry – your fears of the old “character held up as a god by primitives” plot are soon assuaged, as the village chief explains that they know of space travel and starships but choose to live this life.

The planet is, however, far from any space lanes and never visited, and has no comms tech to call for rescue. Cue the best “Fu[beep]ck” exclamation – and response – since T’Ana couldn’t tell starships apart in Season 1!

Peanut Hamper finds a home among the bird people (Paramount+)

The Chief’s son is assigned to look after Peanut. Despite his initial hostility, her skills at medicine soon impress him and everyone else. He reveals an archive of starships belonging to his ancestors, who had abandoned technology. In time, he and Peanut Hamper are due to be married… and that’s when the Drookmani scavengers – their leader voiced again by an instantly recognisable J.G. Hertzler – turn up to attack. This in turns prompts Peanut to have to find a way to send a distress signal to Starfleet and expect a court martial.

Guess which ship recieves the call? Yep, the Cerritos, and none of the crew are happy to see Peanut Hamper. The number of about-faces and betrayals she achieves in a single Act of the episode is marvellously impressive, and great fun for the audience. You never quite know which way she’s ultimately going to turn, and it’s great.

Rating: 5/5

It’s a nice change to have an episode mostly from the POV of a different character rather than one of the regulars, and Peanut Hamper is marvellously unpredictable. She flips back and forth between inspiring and pleasant hero – learning how to be a better Starfleet exemplar – and completely psychopathic, self-interested threat. In a lot of ways, she feels a bit like some portrayals of Harley Quinn from the Batman franchise, with a Star Trek twist, and a bit of GlaDOS from the Portal videogame. Kether Donohue is awesome as Peanut Hamper – both endearing and terrifying – and J.G. Hertzler is always good value too.

There are a decent number of continuity references, in-jokes, and easter eggs, but they’re less noticeable this time because this is a more character-centric story, and that’s actually no bad thing. This is probably the best episode so far this season – even if the ultimate tag scene is a replay/continuation of the one from “Where Pleasant Fountains Lie” in Season 2, complete with cameo by Jeffery Combs as AGIMUS. Whether this is just a suitable recurring gag, or setup for a story arc, it’s too early to tell, but an arc with a team-up between those two would be cool.

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