This article contains Star Trek: Lower Decks spoilers.
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 Episode 2
It’s the thrill of the chase. That’s the dominant theme in Star Trek: Lower Decks “The Least Dangerous Game.” Themes of game play, challenge, and the hunt resonate in this episode along with some popular Star Trek and non-Trek elements, all tied together with a little inspiration from a lesser-known character from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Anthony Rapp showed us last year that there is a strong intersection between fans of Dungeons & Dragons and Star Trek. Sure enough, when the opening scene of this episode shows us General Martok (voiced by J.G. Hertzler) as the imaginary Dungeon Master in a Klingon screen-directed role-playing game titled Bat’leths & BHInuchs, you could almost hear the fans roll their own polyhedral dice in excitement.
This sets the stage for the rest of the episode, which is definitely filled with all sorts of challenges for the Lower Deckers to overcome. This includes a realization from Ensign Boimler (Jack Quaid) that he needs to be bolder and take on new challenges in his quest for promotion which includes a springball game, singing Bajoran dirges (with that patented Boimler scream!), and volunteering to be hunted in a live hunt.
A live hunt is, of course, the ultimate game and it’s a challenge that has been at the forefront of Lower Decks showrunner Mike McMahan’s mind.
“I’ve been trying to bring Tossk from Deep Space Nine into my own Star Trek since Lower Decks season one” McMahan tells us. “In fact, I tried to bring him into Rick and Morty! But I think they eventually brought in a character inspired by him after we parted ways – which, of course, always happens.” (The Rick and Morty character McMahan is referring to is Mr. Always Wants to be Hunted.)
The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode in question, “Captive Pursuit,” sees the reptilian Tosk docks at Deep Space Nine for repairs to his ship to evade the Hunters who pursue him. In the case of Lower Decks, Boimler plays the role of Tosk in this story.
As part of a realization that he needs to be more aggressive and bolder in his quest for promotion, Boimler volunteers to be the prey in a live hunt with a menacing-looking alien species without thinking of the consequences. It’s a hilarious sub-plot that not only recalls that DS9 episode but also puts it into a gaming context that fans can appreciate.
“I really wanted to get a Hunter on the ship. I loved Tosk.” McMahan says. Just to clarify, Mike is referring to the thrill of the hunt here, in that the real game (even though the show starts with a Klingon role-playing game!) is a a hunter, namely K’ranch, hunting Boimler like Tosk.
“I don’t know if this is an influence but I love Predator.” McMahan tells us. “And I don’t know if you’ve seen Prey but I love sci-fi hunt stories. They’re always great. The original Predator is my favorite version of that. Maybe Aliens but [it’s a] different vibe.”
Nevertheless, there’s a Predator vibe in this episode with the monstrous hunter, K’ranch, the intelligent technology, and even the glowing ooze that’s used to mark Boimler as his prey. Of course, if you throw the patented Boimler scream into the mix and add the funny interludes in the hunt sequence, you get a game that’s not only hilarious to watch but delivers on the promise of the episode’s title.
Star Trek: Lower Decks drops every Thursday on Paramount + in the US and on CTV’s Sci-Fi Channel in Canada.