Warp Factor Trek

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Captain Freeman is told by Admiral Buenamigo that her idea for “Project Swing By” – revisiting planets that were contacted but haven’t been visited by the Federation recently – has been approved. To show how valuable it’ll be, he’s sending an FNN journalist to cover the Cerritos as it checks in on the planets Ornara and Brekka, whose drug dependency/supply problem Picard encountered way back in TNG’s Season 1 episode “Symbiosis” (the one with both Kirk’s son and Khan’s right-hand man from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as guest stars, in case you’ve forgotten). Freeman freaks out, however – not about the mission, but about the journalist. The ship is a mess and she wants it cleaned up. She doesn’t want the crew looking like fools.

Enter Mariner, covered in blueberry sauce, and trailing blueberry footsteps from a very messy turbolift. The reporter, Victoria Nuzé, is not the smartest tool in the box (she thinks Flagstaff, Arizona, is in California). Captain Freeman arranges the schedule so that Beta shift isn’t on duty when the reporter is around. Naturally, this doesn’t help, provoking Mariner to become more rebellious when their corridor lights are switched off. To the annoyance of everyone who’s looking forward to the ship’s pie-eating competition – notably Mariner and Rutherford – Freeman also goes full Captain Bligh and bans it, having ingredients disintegrated.

Victoria spends some time interviewing various crewmembers in the bar. They include Barnes, Kayshon, the cetaceans, Ransom (who tries to pick her up), and Manhaver.

Interviewing the dolphins

Arriving at Ornara, Freeman and company discover that they don’t need any Federation help. Having gone cold turkey after Picard stopped their drug supply, they’ve all become addicted to health and fitness, obsessed with exercise and marathon running. They demonstrate that Picard was right, and Freeman is annoyed that there is no Swing By mission here.

Ransom later sees Mariner talking to Victoria in the corridor, promising her the truth about the Cerritos. When Victoria interviews Freeman, the reporter reveals that she’s heard lots of stories about chaos on the ship. She proceeds to cite several events from previous episodes. Freeman immediately assumes that Mariner has revealed all this stuff and explodes.

Freeman and Ransom frustrated by Mariner

Mariner becomes a pariah, nobody will talk to her, and the captain transfers her to Starbase 80. The base has been a running threat in the series and now we see that it’s staffed by filthy slobs who make the Malon from Voyager look spick and span.

The ship continues to Brekka. While Doctor Migleemo (at the conn) calls his mother, Freeman leads an away team. They discover the planet is all but deserted – except for a Breen occupation force! It’s a surprisingly shocking moment when a young survivor who alerts Ransom to the Breen presence is disintegrated after two lines. Breen soldiers attack the away team. Three Breen ships then ambush the Cerritos.

The Breen ships attack the Cerritos

In the ensuing battle, there’s some lovely CG work on the Breen ships, as the Cerritos is shot to pieces in what feels like a drop-in from a darker show. At the last second, the ship is saved by the intervention of a new Federation ship, the Aledo, which Admiral Buenamigo then reveals to be an AI-piloted Texas-class ship.

Ransom is sure that Project Swing By, having revealed the Breen incursion, will impress everyone. FNN then airs Victoria’s report, which shows that Mariner only said good things about the ship and Captain Freeman – it was everyone else who let slip individual anecdotes of chaos. This should have been obvious, but – given what we know of Mariner – it isn’t. The idea of her trash-talking the ship and crew is so natural that it’s unquestionable and makes the audience complicit in mistrusting her. It’s an effective use of her character development, and so a good twist in the end.

Rating: 4/5

The music is exciting, while the new Texas-class looks familiar – rather reminiscent of the USS Equinox from Voyager. The design for the Breen is rather lackluster. Nevertheless, what starts as a fairly regular episode with little character work actually turns out to be a good one with subtle and effective character depth, perhaps giving us a feel of what it’s like to be one of Mariner’s family, whether we like her or not.

Speaking of whom, Freeman wants to correct her mistake and get Mariner back from Starbase 80. However, Mariner has resigned from Starfleet, and is off doing independent space archeology with Petra Aberdeen (Georgia King from Devs and The New Normal), the ex-Starfleet “space archaeologist” from “Reflections” earlier this season.

Aberdeen and Mariner

To be continued… Well, in practical terms, this is a cliffhanger leading into the season finale, even though there isn’t a “To Be Continued” caption on screen. But you get it, right?

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