Warp Factor Trek

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In a heart-pounding cosmic adventure, the USS Cerritos crew faces an unraveling mystery, treacherous twists, and an unexpected reappearance of a familiar face. There’s all this and more in the penultimate episode of Lower Decks Season 4.

Log Entry

The lower deckers have been fixing a science colony’s fence to keep out venomous creatures when a section of the fence goes down. This panics the lead scientist, who only loves the creatures when the fence is on. Suicidally running out among them, Mariner corrals the creatures and reactivates the fence.

Mariner confronts venomous tremble lizards in order to reactivate the fence (Paramount+)

A briefing on the Cerritos excludes Mariner. Commander Ransom explains that the mystery ship is now targeting ex-Starfleet personnel, such as Seven of Nine, Beverly Crusher, Thomas Riker, and Nick Locarno. The Cerritos is tasked with finding Locarno (from TNG’s “The First Duty”), now a pilot for hire. To keep him from encouraging Mariner’s dangerous behaviour, the lower deckers will distract her with a mission. Tendi recommends doing much-needed maintenance on a buoy in the Sherbal system. It’s the safest mission possible but Tendi suggests exaggerating its risk and Freeman approves.

Tendi discovers that the buoy — which orbits the storm-ridden planet Sherbal V — has already been tampered with. Their shuttle is detected by a Klingon Bird-of-Prey.

The Cerritos arrives at New Axton. The guards there make them park beside a moon and catch a commercial shuttle, while a sinister bounty hunter ship is allowed through to land.

The lower deckers’ shuttle is attacked by the Klingon Bird-of-Prey. They make an emergency beamdown to Sherbal V and encounter various species fighting each other. Mariner intervenes and fights a Romulan, Vrek, but gets knocked down.

Soon enough, Freeman’s team — including Rutherford and Shaxs — make their way to a dodgy cantina. It has a two-hour queue for Starfleeters but the bounty hunter is permitted to enter immediately.

On Sherbal V, T’Lyn confesses the secret diversion plan to Mariner, who later separates from their group and finds herself fighting with a Klingon. Together, they’re forced to shelter from a storm.

The Klingon is Ma’ah, the former captain of the Bird-of-Prey. Reluctantly, he and Mariner start to talk. Ma’ah deems her a warrior fighting an internal enemy. He reckons that her experiences in the Dominion War and the loss of her friend Sito Jaxa (from TNG’s “The First Duty” and “Lower Decks”) mean Mariner doesn’t want to be someone who orders people to war. Ma’ah tells her this insecurity doesn’t honour her friend.

On New Axton, Captain Freeman’s away team head to Mudd’s (Paramount+)

Meanwhile, Freeman’s team try another seedy bar, “Mudd’s”, to meet an information broker with data on Locarno. It resembles Balok’s puppet. Assuming it is a puppet, Freeman starts smashing it up. However, Rutherford’s implant proves it’s an organic lifeform. It decides to sell the information to the bounty hunter, while the Starfleeters are run out of town.

Mariner and Ma’ah find a bunker overrun with all the species attacked by the mystery ship, blaming each other for their situation. They were each overthrown by mutinying lower officers who’d been lied to. The Klingon has the voice of authority… as does Tendi when she arrives. Mariner inspires them all to unite but is abruptly beamed out.

Freeman hasn’t been stupid, as the bounty hunter meets her team and reveals himself to be Billups in disguise. She knew the criminals would never have sold the info to Starfleet. While Freeman’s team searches for Locarno, Ma’ah supervises a plan to get his ship back by luring it to low altitude and climbing aboard. They succeed. Mariner wakes in a bunk aboard the mystery ship, to be greeted by its pilot, the troublesome Nick Locarno…

Status Report

There are plenty of twists and shockers — and gags — along the way to the dreaded “To Be Continued” caption. As we catch up with the victims of the mystery attacker, we get plenty of Trek species and easter eggs as always. There are also some noticeable Star Wars ones — the bounty hunter gambit from Billups (whose voice is a mixture of a Breen voice and the bounty hunter Leia poses as in Return of the Jedi) and the woodland bunker (which is pretty identical to a bunker on Endor in the same film).

The inclusion of Nick Locarno — thankfully reprised by Robert Duncan McNeill — is a surprise, though as soon as he’s mentioned as a pilot for hire, it’s both inevitable that he won’t appear until the episode’s end and unsurprising that he’s the pilot of the mystery ship. That said, the team just about manage to keep this inevitability a 50/50 possibility for much of the episode by including the bounty hunter, making for an also obvious possibility that this is Locarno himself… until it turns out to be Billups.

Captain Freeman’s briefing (Paramount+)

The regulars are all on top form, displaying the progress they’ve made this season. Mariner’s instability is the obvious one but Tendi’s status as Mistress of the Winter Constellations is useful too and T’Lyn — recently announced as staying for Season 5 — is also good value. Even Captain Freeman is at her sharpest, though well-disguised — the whole Balok puppet scene is cringingly hilarious. On the downside, there’s no Doctor T’Ana this week.

The guest characters are all pretty good as well, especially Ma’ah, who gives us another look at the depth of Klingon culture. His conversation with Mariner when sheltering from the storm is very touching and does a good job of giving value to the title, which is surprisingly literal (though also an homage to “The Inner Light”). The Romulans, by contrast, are a little one-dimensional… but work, as do the Orions. Togg, the treacherous Klingon commanding the Bird-of-Prey, is good too.

Rating: 5/5

Overall, it’s well-directed, gives us some shocking answers to the story arc, while still leaving us mysteries. Who is Locarno working for? What’s his connection with Togg? Why are the ships being stolen and their crews stranded? Throw in the usual level of craziness and it looks like the season is heading for an epic conclusion.

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