Star Trek: Lower Decks S2E1 Review and Easter Eggs
by Justine Norton-Kertson
August 12, 2021
**Warning: This article contains spoilers**
There's no surprise that from scene one to closing credits, the season two premier of Star Trek: Lower Decks is hilarious, fast paced, and packed full to the brim with action. The first episode of the new season is perhaps the strongest episode yet. It is both bold and certain in it's comedic tone as well as adept in its storytelling. The franchise's first animated show in almost a half century is, in my opinion at least, the strongest and most consistent of all the new era Trek shows in play so far.
The story is layered with three plots that all touch on the themes of being true to oneself and abuse of power. In the main plotline, both Mariner and her mother, Captain Carol Freeman, are not being their true, authentic selves with each other, and they are each abusing their power aboard the Cerritos in their own ways that get exposed throughout the episode. In the two subplots, we see Tendi abusing her power as medical staff by trying to force treatment on Rutherford out of fear that he will stop liking her, and we see Commander Ransom essentially being himself but on overdrive as he abuses his newfound omnipotent powers to try and destroy his ship and crewmates.
We're not going to give a play-by-play review, because you should go watch the episode. There are also tons of Easter eggs. Like, the entire episode is basically one series of Easter eggs after another. So we aren't going to try to address them all. But what follows are some of the moments and hidden gems that I enjoyed in particular and thought were worth including here.
Where No Man Has Gone Before, Part 2
The first and most obvious Easter egg is the fact that the whole opening episode of Lower Decks' second season is a parody of, or perhaps a continuation of, The Original Series episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (TOS S1E3). During that episode, helmsman Gary Mitchell is knocked unconscious during an encounter with a strange barrier force. After regaining consciousness his eyes glow silver and he displays hostile behavior toward other crewmembers. He declares himself to be god-like and shows that he now has telepathic and telekinetic abilities. Mitchell fatally injures ship psychiatrist, Dr. Elizabeth Dehner. In an attempt to stop Mitchell, Kirk causes a rock slide with his rifle, which kills Mitchell.
The "Strange Energies" of the Lower Decks season two opener's title turn out to be the same thing that gives Mitchell his god-like powers. This time it's Commander Jack Ransom who falls under the sway of the strange energies. During the episode he displays the same powers as Mitchel
such as telepathy, telekinesis, and even weather control. He also displays the gross arrogance that Mitchell does in The Original Series. Ransom's arrogance becomes so massive that he transforms into a giant overinflated head that attacks the Cerritos. That behavioral change is difficult to notice, of course, because Commander Ransom is already always such an egotistical jackass. In the end, Ransom is freed of his possession when Dr. T'Ana drops a massive bolder on him forcing the energy from his body, much like Mitchell is killed by a rock slide.
The episode opens with Mariner in a holodeck workout program. She is in a Cardassian detention center being interrogated in a room with four lights beaming down on her. As Mariner escapes the detention center, a hologram of Boimler is seen chained to a wall by some sort of laser-type restraints. He begs Mariner to save him because "they keep showing me lights." This opening scene is a blatant reference to "Chain of Command" (TNG S6E10-11), in which Picard was interrogated in a Cardassian detention center where they try to force him to admit there are five lights, when there are, in fact, only four.
Jennifer the Andorian
Jennifer is back! The Andorian character made appearances in four different season one episodes, including "Envoys" (S1E2), "Cupid's Errant Arrow" (S1E5), "Terminal Provocations" (S1E6), and the season one finale "No Small Parts" (S1E10). In her fifth appearance, Jennifer shows up in the season two opening scene when comes into the holodeck and interrupts Mariner at the beginning of the episode. We learn that Jen likes yoga. The feud between her and Mariner is also on full display as they poke and push each other's buttons.
Personally, I love Andorians. As one of the show's central species, they are one of the best things about Star Trek: Enterprise, the last of the 1990s-early 2000s era Star Trek shows. Maybe it's the blue skin, or their classic alien look with antennae on their heads. It could be their bold and combative nature. Whatever is, I love them and I want more. Here's hoping that Jennifer becomes a more regular character on Lower Decks.
During the end of the opening credits we see the ready room of USS Cerritos' captain and Mariner's mother, Captain Carol Freeman. Mariner is there weeding through a box of mostly maritime memorabilia. There's a periscope in the box, and displayed on the wall is a clipper ship and other maritime knickknacks. This seems likely to be a nod to the one of the opening scenes of the first TNG movie, Star Trek: Generations, in which the crew of the Enterprise-D is on a holodeck version of the old Enterprise clipper ship. They are hazing Worf and making him walk a plank as part of his promotion ceremony to Lieutenant-Commander.
Also in the box of memorabilia that Mariner is sorting through is a starship in a bottle, which could be reference to the holodeck episode "Ship in a Bottle" (TNG S6E12) in which Sherlock Homes' nemesis Professor Moriarti attains sentience and causes problems for the crew of Captain Picard and his crew.
New Opening-Credits, Sort Of
The song and opening-credits scene for season two is the same as it was in season one, almost. There is one small difference. The slight modification comes during the fight scene with the Borg cubes. Klingon Birds-of-Prey, Romulan Warbirds, and a Pakled ship are now part of the fight where they weren't in season one.
It's a very small change, and maybe I'm overthinking it, but I can't help but wonder if this small change has much bigger significance. I can't help but wonder why the change was made. It could be nothing. Perhaps the writers just wanted to see if fans would notice. Or, maybe, just maybe it's a statement about canon and the heavy emphasis many fans place on the idea of canon. Are the writers telling us that it doesn't matter if everything lines up perfectly without flaw? Are they inviting us to consider that obsessing over such minute details and deciding that we don't like new Star Trek shows because of those small inconsistencies is ultimately silly and unimportant? Nah, probably not.
That Spiky Ball Thing
Our first season two scene with Tendi and Rutherford shows Mariner walking into a room, presumably crew quarters, where her two friends are hanging out. Mariner opens a compartment and we see a black, metal, spiked ball among her things. It comes pretty quick and is gone again almost before you have time to notice it.
This quick appearance of a metal spiky ball seems to be a reference to the poisonous, gloved weapons used by Tasha Yar and Yareena during their fight to the death in "Code of Honor" (TNG S1E4). It certainly looked like that's what it is to me, and it was the first thing that came to mind when watching the scene. I can't find any other Star Trek references to spiky balls. So I think this one is a pretty safe assumption.
Rutherford Hates Pears, or Does He?
During the same scene with the spiky ball described above, Rutherford is eating pears. Not just one. He has eaten three, and is going for a fourth. As far as we know Rutherford hates pears, and the sudden behavioral change starts to worry Tendi that her cyborg friend might be having some internal malfunctions.
The pears could be a reference to Star Trek: The Animated Series. The first of the Trek cartoons, TAS follows the continuing adventures of Captain Kirk and his crew. In "The Eye of the Beholder" (TAS S1E15), a fruit platter is served to Kirk, Spock, and McCoy while they are held in the Lactra VII zoo. One of the fruits is pears, or else a fruit from another world that looks exactly like pears. A few episodes later in "The Practical Joker" (TAS S1E20), a fruit platter is on the Enterprise's dining table, and what appear to be pears are part of the mix.
The Whale on the Wall
During the episode, Mariner gets permission from her mother, Captain Freeman, to carry out her own side mission to power wash some walls down on Apergos. The Cerritos is there engaged in their latest second contact mission, and the planet is riddled with air and water pollution. Mariner hopes that if she power washes some walls and helps make part of their community look nice, the Apergosians will begin to take better care of their home themselves. Mariner begins washing a wall with the sonic power washer. As the filth and grime are washed away, a lovely mural with sea creatures is revealed. The largest and central creature in the mural is what looks an awful lot like a humpback whale.
It was incredibly cool getting to see a sonic power washer in action. We're familiar enough with sonic showers, particular from their many mentions in The Next Generation. We've never heard of or seen a sonic power washer before though. In addition, the humpback whale in the mural that Mariner reveals seems to be a clear reference to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. In the franchise's fourth movie, Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise head back to Earth, and back in time to the 1980s, in search of humpback whales that are extinct in the 23rd century.
That wraps up our review of Star Trek: Lower Decks season 2 episode 1. Check back again next Thursday and each week for our reviews of the rest of the season two episodes.