This Star Trek: Lower Decks article contains spoilers.
Backed into a corner by members of the USS Cerritos and affected by the same overwhelming emotions that bombard everyone else, the three Betazoid women pull out their lipsticks. Although they initially seemed like nothing more than party girls abusing their diplomatic privilege, the Betazoids extend their lipsticks into batons and leap into action, revealing themselves to be members of their planet’s secret intelligence corp. And thus, Star Trek: Lower Decks give us the first (canonical) look at the Betazed military.
The question of Betazed’s military power has been lingering since the portrayal of the Dominion War in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. That series seeded the power of the Dominion early on and slowly established the Gamma Quadrant conquerors as a real threat. But it wasn’t until the Dominion, and their Cardassian collaborators, conquered Betazed that the Federation truly took the threat seriously.
To some viewers, the Battle of Betazed might seem like an easy win for the Dominion. After all, Star Trek‘s two most notable Betazoids are the Enterprise’s Counsellor Deanna Troi and her mother, Ambassador Lwaxana Troi. As beloved as they are (well, Deanna anyway), neither of them presents their planet as particularly powerful warriors.
Sure, we’ve seen some dangerous Betazoids from time to time, the powerful Tam Elbrun of The Next Generation episode “Tin Man” and serial killer Lon Suder (portrayed by the legendary Brad Dourif) who saved the Voyager from Kazon invaders in the two-parter “Basics.” But for the most part, Betazed seems like a peaceful paradise.
So why in the world would the Dominion want to start with Betazed? Sure, it provides strategic value in establishing a base in the Alpha Quadrant, and the captured Betazoids served as slave labor for the Cardassians. But surely the mighty Dominion would want to demonstrate its strength by crippling a more combat-ready planet? And if they did simply want an easy win, why was the fall of Betazed so chilling to the Federation that Captain Sisko sacrificed his morals to enlist the Romulan Empire, as seen in the amazing Deep Space Nine episode “In the Pale Moonlight”?
Strangely enough, a sort of answer comes in the latest episode of Lower Decks. Much of the season five episode “Empathalogical Fallacies” plays like a riff on two of the franchise’s more embarrassing entries, “The Naked Time” from The Original Series (aka the one with Sulu and a sword) and “The Naked Now” from TNG (aka the one where Tasha Yar and Data get it on). The crew of the Cerritos begins acting wildly at the same time that a trio of Betazed diplomats visit. However, the script by Jamie Loftus cleverly locates the source of the problem to T’Lyan, who experiences early on-set Bendii Syndrome.
The Bendii Syndrome forces the Betazoid secret agents to reveal themselves and their mission: to investigate a mysterious vessel that has been obliterating other ships throughout the season. Not only do the agents show impressive physical prowess, stopped only thanks to Shax and his unique way of training his security forces, but they also have new information about the ship.
In this short and largely funny episode, “Empathalogical Fallacies” brings into canon something only seen in novels such as The Battle of Betazed by Charlotte Douglas and Susan Kearney. The Betazoids aren’t just telepathic hippies who get married in the nude. They’re a military power whose empathetic abilities make them an intelligence asset. Now it makes a lot more sense why the Changelings wanted to take them out as early as possible in the Dominion War.
Star Trek: Lower Decks is streaming now on Paramount+.