Warp Factor Trek

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This is the long-awaited crossover with animated series Lower Decks. It was announced at San Diego Comic-Con 2022 and given an early debut screening at San Diego Comic-Con 2023.


The episode starts in the 24th Century, aboard the USS Cerritos. This is an animated segment, set specifically on Stardate 58460.1, which places it soon after “Hear All, Trust Nothing” and probably before the Cerritos’ arrival to deal with Peanut Hamper in “A Mathematically Perfect Redemption”, which takes place over the course of about eighteen months.

Brad Boimler is recording his ensign’s log about arriving at Krulmuth-B, site of the Krulmuth-B Portal, one of his favourites. He, Beckett Mariner, Rutherford, and Tendi beam down to find an inactive portal resembling both a large gyroscope and one of the stargates from Stargate. As they take readings, Boimler and Tendi argue over whether Starfleet or Orions — who are not all pirates — discovered it. Boimler poses for a photo, at which point the holo-camera activates the portal, dragging Boimler through…

Una, Spock and La’an on Krulmuth-B

In the 23rd Century, a three-member away team are surveying the same portal when it spits out a live-action Boimler… Cue the opening titles, but rendered in the Lower Decks animation style, complete with space creature suckling on one of the nacelles and a nebula in the shape of a koala!

It’s Stardate 2291.6 and the Enterprise is en route to deliver grain to Setlik II. Next thing we know, Boimler is meeting the regulars in sickbay and is reassured that they know he’s from the future. La’an tries to lay down the law on not revealing future events, based on her experiences in “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow”, but Boimler lets his mouth run away with him. He and Spock must work together to reopen the portal for Boims to head back to the future.

M’Benga, Boimler and Spock working on the portal

Soon, an Orion ship arrives, which Pike believes to be pirates, though they claim to be a science vessel. Boimler, however, is more familiar with Orions and knows Tendi’s great-grandmother is on the ship. Nevertheless, the Orions beam up the portal and run.

By questioning why Spock is so different than his reputation, Boimler accidentally winds up Chapel. With the crew studiously not watching Boimler’s technological assistance, the Enterprise catches up with the Orion ship. They trade the grain (an earlier variant than quadrotriticale) for the return of the portal. When they activate it, however, it spits out Mariner, who has leapt in to rescue Boimler.

Mariner and Boimler on the Enterprise (Paramount+)

Now the pair can comment on “those old scientists” and legends, while reacting to all of them, whether it be being impressed by Uhura or, in Boimler’s case, being terrified of Una. As it turns out, Boimler’s reactions to Una are because he has a pinup of her which was the recruitment poster that got him into Starfleet. The SNW crew, meanwhile, are consistently bemused and annoyed.

They still have to reactivate the portal. Eventually, they find the appropriate element in pieces of the NX-01 which are bolted into the floor in Engineering. This enables Mariner and Boimler to finally get home. But the Orions won’t allow them to leave until Pike proposes that they take the credit for discovering the portal.

Back in the 24th Century, Boimler now agrees with Tendi that Orions did discover the portal, while Ransom essentially drools over the poster of Una. In the closing tag scene on Pike’s ship, everyone and everything is now portrayed in animated form…

The SNW main characters in animated form


Of the Lower Decks characters, only Tawny Newsome as Mariner and Jack Quaid as Boimler appear in live-action. They are recognisable from their voice performances, because the artists on Lower Decks designed the characters to resemble their performers. Newsome comes across best in this regard, as Boimler is rather strangely pasty-faced and almost plastic-looking. It’s hard to think why the makeup department went that way. Newsome is spot on, though.

The live-action Mariner and Boimler (Paramount+)

What kind of feels unlike a Lower Decks crossover here is in the lack of physical chaos. There’s plenty of dialogue chaos but there’s very little in terms of physical chases, acrobatic dodges and escapes. It’s obviously safer and more sensible to have animated characters do those things than actors or even stunt artists.

Nevertheless, it’s still a solid comedic episode with decent excitement, courtesy of Trek’s ideal director: Jonathan Frakes. Nami Melumad’s score is also a winner, with moments echoing Jerry Goldsmith’s Enterprise and space station themes from The Motion Picture.

Frakes in the Enterprise sickbay set

In terms of plot and tone, this episode really progresses as simply and straightforwardly as you’d expect: the plot is simply “get the characters back to their respective eras, and make lots and lots of continuity references, which this time we can call dancing around future knowledge.” However, what it far more subtly does is play into the character arcs seen in the season so far. The blendings of SNW and LD tropes are fairly perfect too, with countless continuity references and proselytising about the value of Starfleet and the Federation.

Seriously — and humorously — it fits with Spock and Chapel’s potential relationship, La’an’s prior time-travel experience, and most touchingly the payoff to the outcome and title of “Ad Astra Per Aspera”. It very much earns and owns its place in Strange New Worlds’ second season. It doesn’t do that so much with Lower Decks as a totality, given its timing during Season 3, and so it more relates simply to the attitudes that show has to its predecessors: comedic digs, born of affection. It’s almost as if both shows are celebrating the same ancestry with the same affection… because of course they are, and it’s awesome.

There are some downsides, other than Boimler’s makeup, as the live-action setting for the portal is — like many planets in the series — far too obviously a small dirt patch with a virtual backdrop, which is somehow as unconvincing as the small dirt sets in TOS. Perhaps it’s a deliberate callback, mind you, given the way that Boimler links the initials “TOS” with the phrase “those old scientists.”

Rating: 5 out of 5

This crossover episode has certainly been worth the wait and will be a fan favourite. It’s not flawless, but a worthy crossover classic. Just don’t ask what happened to the grain requirement on Setlik II.

1 thought on “Strange New Worlds‘ “Those Old Scientists” in Review

  1. I believe the Orions gave the grain back when Pike promised that history would reflect that the Orions discovered the portal.

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