Synopsis: In the season one finale of Lower Decks, just as Mariner (Tawny Newsome) is finally getting her act together, disaster strikes. The Cerritos responds to a distress signal that spells real danger. To make matters worse Boimler (Jack Quaid) let’s slip a secret . . .
The opening montage sees the Cerritos respond to a distress call, from the U.S.S. Solvang. Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) thinks it will just be another routine incident. The usual for her ship. The fact it’s not sets up a really great finale for season one, in dramatic fashion. This alone pays homage to the traditional “big finale” from the TNG. DS9, VOY and ENT era. A great piece of writing sees much packed into the just under half an hour offering.
B-plot wise, there’s the reveal, by Boimler, that Freeman and Mariner are mother and daughter. Boimler doesn’t intentionally tell everyone. Once it’s out, tensions arise. That’s before the crew arrives to see the Solvang obliterated, and the entire crew wiped out. Those responsible are the Pakleds, a species fans of Trek will remember from TNG and DS9. Great to use a lesser developed race. The Pakleds were always technologically inferior. However, now they’ve developed. They poise a formidable threat.
Once everything’s wrapped up, with Captain Freeman being forced to rely on her daughter’s unorthodox methods, there are some pretty big changes made. This includes a sacrifice made by a lesser, but firmly established character. The decisions feel permanent, bringing a deeper dimension to the show. It should make season two very interesting, story-wise. There are also two great cameos from Trek royalty. Really strong use of them in Lower Deck’s first season finale . . .
The Voices and Characters
It feels a little bit of a betrayal to start with appraising the show’s biggest cameos to date. That said, it is Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis we’re talking about. Yep, Riker and Troi! Frakes shows that he is an absolute giant within Trek, plain and simple. Whether he’s animated or not, he’s Will Riker through and through. His trademark authoritative voice establishes his presence effortlessly. Jerry O’Connell’s parody, Jack Ransom, looks exactly that next to the real deal. Sirtis also shines, and does a great job of consciously mocking her role in the show, with great comedic delivery. We see a Troi who knows who Troi was then and is now, which works a treat.
Everyone else does their usual great job of delivering these characters. Some fantastic scenes between Freeman and Mariner, which Lewis and Newsome deal with expertly. Tendi (Noel Wells) and Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) continue to develop their will they/won’t they? dynamic. Wells and Cordero have really gotten to grips with these characters.
Fred Tatasciore , who voices Lieutenant Shaxs deserves a special shout out. No easy ask to shine when you’re a secondary character, on a show with so much talent. Tatasciore manages to do so, endearing Shaxs to viewers.
Near the start of the episode the events of TOS episode “The Return of the Archons”, are discussed. Kirk and Spock appear on a hand-held unit. They do so in the style of the original Star Trek: The Animated Series. This works for many reasons. It’s a great tribute, and a way to show how different the style of animation is on Lower Decks. The contrast in styles is powerful, and really shows how far animation has come.
It’s been the same all season. Once you decide to hate the animation style, there’s nowhere to go. Whilst it may be irritating and “too cartoon”, for many, it’s only fair to assess what has been achieved. How creatively Lower decks has been with things. This episode embodied what’s becoming clear: the style allows for limitlessly imaginative scenes and sequences. It isn’t a style many fans will warm to, but what’s been done with it has been a great success, at times.
Season one has been a success, generally. Here at SciFiPulse, we’ve watched Lower Decks each week, with keen interest. We felt there was a danger this would take away from established canon, and generally be appalling. This finale shows that the opposite is true. They saved the best for last. A wonderful episode, for many reasons. The whole interpersonal relationship aspect was done sublimely. All season, there’s been the issue of Mariner serving under her mother’s command. This episode brought that to a climax, and so with aplomb.
Historically (not including TOS and season 1 of TNG) Trek shows have gone for a big, bold last episode of the season. Lower Decks has continued that tradition, and firmly established that it belongs to TNG era. The big guns were brought out, in Riker and Troi. They were used well, to powerful effect. Lower Decks really has saved the best for last, in its debut season. Some bold decisions really gave the events emotional depth, in what is a mostly lighthearted show. Try as you might, you can’t hate this show entirely. It’s clever and tight, with brilliant in-jokes, fun characters that develop. When it is on the money, it’s really priceless stuff. Strong end to the first season.