The ninth episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks sees the start of a two-part finale to its fourth season. Are you ready for The Inner Fight?
After last week’s letdown episode (read our review here), can this week’s episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks redeem itself? While the previous episode, although trying hard, failed to live up to expectations, this week’s is slightly better. But not by much. It is the first part of a two-part finale to the fourth season of the adult-oriented animated series. And as you’d expect, it ends with a cliffhanger. But while it is still entertaining and amusing, it somehow fails to fully engage. We do finally get an answer to the big question that has been hanging over the series this season. But we will have to wait until next week to get the full picture.
Captain Freeman assigns the Lower Deckers an overly safe mission to try and keep a self-destructive Mariner out of danger.
The episode starts with our heroes installing a new power relay to help a pair of scientists continue their study of the venomous Tremble Lizards. After one decides to eat through a power cable, it lowers the energy field protecting the scientists, allowing the venomous creatures to attack their station on the planet. While everyone else dons protective suits (and after a typical Boimler panic attack), Mariner runs outside unprotected to fix the problem. She succeeds but shows she is continuing to take risks with her life. And no one, not even her closest friends knows why.
Her mother, Captain Carol Freeman, has also noticed Mariner’s disregard for her own life. While the Cerritos has a mission to safeguard a famous Starfleet officer from Trek history (no spoilers here), she sends Mariner, Boimler, Tendi and T’Lyn on a safe mission. Or so she thinks. To get Mariner to go along, the others have to pretend that the mission is extremely dangerous. While the mission is safe and boring, the return trip isn’t. Stranded on a strange planet, and split up from the others, Mariner finally discloses why she acts the way she does. And the audience finally gets a look at Mariner’s inner thoughts and feelings.
While the episode isn’t bad, it isn’t as good as some of the previous episodes. Yes, it is nice to see Mariner open up about why she is the way she is. And some of the comedy is winning. But it sadly feels forced, almost like the writers are hurrying towards the big finale next week. There is enough to keep fans and the audience entertained but it feels exactly what it is, the countdown to the end of the season. The same could be levelled at the penultimate episode of season 3. But the season finale there redeemed itself with an ending that was pure classic Star Trek. That ending, and the music that accompanied it, was perfect.
Next week’s finale to this fourth season needs to really up its game if it is to be even remotely as enjoyable as that episode. The seeds and the story are there for it to be a game changer. And they need to be. This penultimate episode does sow the seeds and leaves a trail for the finale to blow us all away. It will be interesting to see in what direction they will go in. How they will join all the plot threads together to create a season-ending sensation is up in the air. We will all have to wait and see if they manage to do it. But it is a large undertaking.
While not a bad or poor episode by any standards, it does leave a lot to be desired. The promise that the season was showing earlier on is waning fast. The past two episodes have been a letdown. Could this mean that the show is running out of Dilithium crystals? Has the warp core in the writers’ room gone critical? Is it time for the series to beam itself up or travel to its final frontier? I don’t think it’s ready for that just yet. There are still more stories and fun to be had with the show. But it may not survive if episodes like the previous two continue to be made.
While the jokes keep on coming, and the fun continues, the premise looks to be wearing very thin. There are only so many times the writers can go to the Star Trek well for inspiration. Knowing winks and nods is fine, but using some classic moments and characters can only go so far. For a series that promised so much, the joke appears to be wearing slightly thin now. And that is a shame as there is so much more that can be done with the show. Being a parody of the more serious shows in the franchise has worked for almost four seasons. But if they keep churning out episodes that underwhelm, then the final frontier may yet be in sight. I hope not. We can only hope that next week’s season finale can redeem the season. If not, then the series won’t live long and prosper much longer.
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 4 is currently streaming on a weekly basis. The first three seasons are available to stream completely on Paramount+. Start your seven-day free trial by clicking here.
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