Lower Decks‘ “Mining the Mind’s Mines” in Review
This week, we open with a traditional Star Trek pre-credit, reminiscent of the tone of episodes such as TOS’s “The Devil in the Dark”. A random Federation scientist in a mining area’s canyons stumbles across a glowing green rock. It first produces his old teacher, as a toga-wearing fantasy, then turns him to stone. The transformation is watched by a red-eyed giant… and accompanied by some lovely Goldsmith-like wondrous-planet music.
As the titles roll, time skips forward. Now, the USS Cerritos and its Cali-class sister ship, the USS Carlsbad (as in the famous caverns – appropriate for an episode about rocks and caves), are to clean up a research station on the planet, which is now referred to as “Jengus IV”.
The crew of the USS Hood – nice to see it again – have negotiated a treaty there with native inhabitants called “the Scrubbles”. That’s a great name, but less great news is that their leader appears to be the same giant who watched a scientist get turned to stone.
The plot then goes three ways. In the main story, Mariner, Boimler, and Rutherford get assigned to pick up the fantasy-generating glowing green rocks and get them safely out of the way while the equivalent threesome from the Carlsbad dismantles the outpost. Mariner decides that, since Ransom didn’t want them to look bad in front of the other crew, the Cerritos must have a reputation. So, they go superfast to deal with the issue, beating the rival team, despite their amusing fantasies coming to life. This works well until Steve Stevens joins in and smashes the glowing rocks, causing them to start generating nightmares instead…
In the second strand, Tendi is to meet her mentor as a trainee science officer, which turns out be Dr. Migleemo, the counsellor, who is remarkably uninterested in science. Tendi, frustrated at being ignored, gets more useful advice from T’Ana. Of all the characters, she is the one surely most deserving of a live-action appearance, being such a scene-stealer.
Thirdly, Captain Freeman and the captain of the Carlsbad find themselves arguing over who should accept the gift from the Scrubble leader so they can sign a treaty. This strand is essentially the wrap-up strand, despite starting quite early, as it leads to both Tendi and the away team revealing that the fantasy-generating rocks operate by means of Federation technology, with the Scrubbles and the scientists conspiring to record people’s knowledge and sell it on the black market.
It also turns out, when the two away teams are trapped by their nightmares – including Klingon Pennywise clowns, and Kulkulkan from The Animated Series! – that the Carlsbad crew were trying to impress the Cerritos crew because they think our regulars are so awesome. In fact, the Cerritos has a reputation for being cool and adventurous.
From the opening teaser’s music, through the appearance of Kulkulkan, all the way to Tendi finding her true mentor, who is definitely T’Ana and not Migleemo, this is a return to form, with a nice line in both referencing familiar Star Trek tropes and giving us some insight into how the crew of the USS Cerritos are viewed elsewhere than on the ship. And “Scrubble” is a great name that sticks in the mind – halfway between “rubble” and the “scrobbled” slang term for being kidnapped from The Box of Delights.
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.