This article contains Star Trek: Lower Decks spoilers.
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 Episode 8
The latest episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks sees the return of the conniving and unscrupulous exocomp, Peanut Hamper. She also accompanies the introduction of a new alien species we hope to see again in the Star Trek universe.
The last time the USS Cerritos encountered Peanut Hamper (Kether Donohue) she left the ship in the proverbial lurch (season one’s “No Small Parts”). After passing on the heroic chance to save the Cerritos by refusing to deliver a virus to an enemy vessel attacking the ship, Peanut Hamper transports away from the Lower Deckers, congratulating herself on her own good judgment – only to see the USS Titan arrive and rescue the crippled Cerritos, leaving Peanut Hamper alone in a debris field to fend for herself for two years. Guess the joke was on her.
The opening credits reinforce Peanut Hamper’s isolation as the regular credit sequence is replaced by scenes of the exocomp wandering aimlessly through space, looking for a safe haven. Penance for her crimes, no doubt, but eventually she winds up on a planet populated by seemingly primitive bird people whose culture has a most eclectic set of influences.
“This episode has a little bit of Avatar, The Last Samurai, and Dances with Wolves in it,” Star Trek: Lower Decks showrunner Mike McMahan tells us “It’s a super sincere feeling and I think it adds to Star Trek.”
McMahan is referring to Peanut Hamper’s involvement with the avian species known as the Areore, who she lives with after finding her way to the planet. When Mike refers to this episode’s similarity to Avatar, he’s talking about Peanut Hamper’s defense of this new species against the Drookmani Scavengers that threaten the planet.
“It’s even got a Moana vibe in it, to boot,” he adds. In this case, he’s talking about the funny antics Ensign Peanut Hamper gets up to as she gains more awareness about organic life and its value in this episode; kind of similar to how Maui learns a bit of humility in Moana.
“We know who Peanut Hamper is,” McMahan says. “She isn’t like the exocomps from Star Trek: The Next Generation and [she] is such a change of speed from TNG.” Longtime Trek fans remember the original, selfless sentient exocomps we met in the TNG episode “The Quality of Life.”
“Every season I try to do an episode that’s truly my own,” McMahan says. “What can I do in an episode of Lower Decks where we shift the focus to a character we haven’t seen in two years, and tell a long story about her? And oh, she doesn’t even have a face!”
Since Peanut Hamper lacks any sort of human characteristics or features, everything she feels has to be presented by voice and limited body language. After all, an exocomp resembles a 1980s kid’s toy manufactured by Coleco. But in this episode, Peanut Hamper is still the manipulative and cunning robot we met in the first season. What comes out in this episode is her true nature.
“Peanut Hamper is limited to only a voice and funny situations,” he says. It’s a real testament to Kether Donohue’s ability to play this character so well that the episode, dedicated to this character who is making a comeback after two years, is able to stand on its own.
As for the introduction of the Areore and the Drookmani Scavengers – both new races to Star Trek introduced by Lower Decks:
“I think we really built up Star Trek in this episode and added to the quadrant with more new alien species,” he says. The more species the Lower Deckers discover, the better, and the Aereor, a warlike avian species could be a great source of future stories to come.
And it seems like there’s this episode will have some important to the future of the series, as well.
“I really love this episode,” McMahan says. “The ending really makes me laugh – and it sets up a very funny episode in season four.”
Star Trek: Lower Decks drops every Thursday.