This Star Trek: Lower Decks review contains spoilers.
Star Trek: Lower Decks Episode 7
Unlike the most recent Star Trek shows, one of the appealing things about Star Trek: Lower Decks is that nearly all of its episodes are self-contained. There hasn’t been a season-long mystery to solve, and for the most part, you can watch the episodes totally out of order. That said, there is one nagging mystery that was quietly mentioned in the very first episode, that finally, appears to have been solved.
Basically, is Ensign Mariner good at her job on accident or occasionally bad at her job on purpose? In this Lower Decks we find the real answer.
While the vast majority of this episode deals with Boimler being “out of phase” and sent to a Federation recovery colony euphemistically called “the Farm,” it’s arguably the B-story that is slightly more interesting.
Boimler’s adventures with the fellow “freaks” who have been exiled by Starfleet is both entertaining and smart, but there isn’t a whole lot of character development there. The bulk of the episode serves as a good reminder that in Trek’s past, the franchise has not done a great job dealing with stories about disability or the consequences of dangerous space accidents. Here, a lot of those less-than-great storylines are put in a new light, with a smart Star Trek-y spin. Yes, in the future, we do take care of everyone, regardless of their “ability,” thank you very much.
But beyond that commentary, and beyond everything that commentary means for the franchise, the more down-to-starship plotline in this episode is the more rewarding one. While Boimler is shipped-off to “the Farm,” Mariner is faced with having to put up with a temporary Captain, who challenges her with a simple question: Why is Mariner still an ensign!?
Back in the first episode, “Second Contact,” Boimler balks at the idea that Mariner has “seen stuff” and says “aren’t we like the same age?” In episode 5, Mariner’s flashback muddies the waters a little bit more, implying she’s maybe been an ensign for much longer than we actually think.
Now, it’s not like “Much Ado About Boimler” directly answers all of these timeline questions, but it does answer a thematic question that is connected. The substitute Captain in this episode is Captain Ramsey, who, as it turns out, is someone Mariner was friends with at the academy.
Regardless of how old Ramsey and Mariner are, respectively (doesn’t matter) this small detail proves one thing: A person who has been promoted to Captain has been in Starfleet for the exact same time as Mariner. This means Mariner has been in Starfleet long enough to have been promoted many times but has figured out how to stay permanently demoted. We kind of already knew this, but this episode drives it home. One of Mariner’s classmates from the academy is a Captain. Why isn’t Mariner further along in her career?
The answer is simple and somewhat heartfelt: Mariner has sabotaged her own career because she simply doesn’t want the responsibility. And in this episode, she outright admits this fact to Captain Ramsey. It isn’t that she can’t be an amazing Starfleet officer, she simply doesn’t want to be. This echoes the same themes in both “Temporal Edict” and “Moist Vessel,” which were also excellent standouts for Lower Decks, specifically, the idea that Starfleet may be tolerant and egalitarian, but it still places values on “winners.”
When you consider how cozy the Trek future is, it does make you wonder why someone would want to become a badass Captain or First Officer of a starship. If you were savvy, wouldn’t all that just be a bigger pain in the ass? Isn’t it more likely you’d die if you had those jobs? In the TNG episode “Tapestry,” Picard bemoans an alternate future where he’s a lowly officer, calling this other self a “dreary man in a tedious job.” But what Mariner’s arc in
is saying is that maybe Picard is a little bit wrong. After all, there’s a big difference between being good at your job and being a careerist who forgets how to enjoy life. Mariner might not be the best example of a Starfleet officer, but she might be the best example of what most of us would be like if we were really in Starfleet.