Lower Decks‘ “Grounded” in Review
The third season of the animated comedy Trek series is preceded by an online “Previously On” recap on Twitter, but thankfully this isn’t really necessary, as the episode opens with a Federation News Net report on the upcoming trial of Captain Freeman, following her arrest for the destruction of the Pakled capital in the Season 2 cliffhanger. It’s nice that if you missed that episode, you’re still not going to miss out or find anything lacking with this one.
While Mariner’s dad, Admiral Freeman, tries to tell her to trust the Starfleet system to prove her mother innocent, Mariner instead sets out to recruit Boimler, Tendi and Rutherford to get aboard the impounded USS Cerritos, where Boimler has left his copies of the logs that would prove what really happened. Hilarity ensues.
Well, pleasant amusement ensues, anyway, as the team first try to beam to the ship but are unable to bring themselves to assault and tie up the ancient transporter chief – who believes them anyway, and would have helped them if not for a swarm of space bugs disrupting the transporters – and then have to steal Zefram Cochrane’s Phoenix from Bozeman, Montana. This gives us a great chance to hear some classic music from Star Trek: First Contact, and a welcome return for James Cromwell as a holographic Cochrane. It’s sad to see the 21st-Century-style tourist trap that Bozeman has become.
Leaving a random kid to try to fly the Phoenix after the trip, they board the Cerritos, only to discover that Boimler’s version of the log is full of crude annotations and his own narration of trying not to fart, and that this would be totally useless. Mariner tries unsuccessfully to send the others home, while she goes after a Klingon suspect, but they are interrupted by Federation Security wanting to know why they’ve stolen a starship. Their defence is that they’re helping the space bugs breed… As it turns out, of course, Captain Freeman had been freed already, thanks to evidence provided by Captain Morgan Bateson and Commander Tuvok – Admiral Freeman had been right all along…
This season premiere packs in a hell of a lot for a twenty-four-minute show, though the shorter runtime means we’re robbed of what could have been a cool B-plot with Bateson and Tuvok – though of course that’s the nature of a show about the people in the lower decks, who don’t get in on the cool stuff. In that sense, it’s a perfect jumping-on point for new viewers curious about the setup of the show and how it works.
As you presumably expect by now, almost every shot, and certainly every scene, is filled with easter eggs and clever little references, from signs on buildings, to dialogue references, to namechecking episode titles (“Samaritan Snare” here, for example) in dialogue. The musical references are always a lovely treat, and this episode is no exception.
The characters interact so well now, and really have chemistry, which really helps make it both Trek, and a good premiere and entry episode. It is a little surprising that the Search for Spock-inspired season poster is explained so early in the season though, with the theft of a starship by grounded crewmen to rescue a senior officer. Or is there more to come on that movie’s front? Who knows. But this premiere promises it’ll be fun finding out.
David A McIntee is a writer and historian who has written for properties such as Doctor Who, Star Wars, Final Destination, and Stargate, as well as having written several adventures in the Star Trek franchise for Pocket Books. He has contributed many pieces to the magazines Star Trek Explorer (née Star Trek Magazine) and Star Trek Communicator, as well as having written nonfiction books about Star Trek: Voyager.