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STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS 1×04 “Moist Vessel” review

Neil reviews the latest episode of STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS, “Moist Vessel.” The episode is available to stream now in North America via CBS All Access.

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Star Trek: Lower Decks (CBS All Access)

Star Trek: Lower Decks airs new episodes weekly on CBS All Access in North America. International air dates are yet to be confirmed.

Synopsis

Captain Freeman seeks the ultimate payback after Mariner blatantly disrespects her in front of the crew. A well-meaning Tendi accidentally messes up a lieutenant’s attempt at spiritual ascension and tries to make it right.

Review

Star Trek: Lower Decks hit its stride last week with an episode (reviewed here) which masterfully balanced its comedic elements with classic Trek lore. This week the series continues to toe the line but leans a little more in to its more flamboyant, slapstick side.

Tawny Newsome takes the lead this week in a story which focusses heavily on Ensign Mariner. But whilst the episode put a little more context in her relationship with her mother, Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis), it also showed her anarchic, petulant side perhaps a little too much.

“Moist Vessel” opens with Mariner yawning her way through a briefing in the conference room. Her performance leads to the Captain and Commander Ransom (Jerry O’Connell) working on a plan to convince Mariner to request a transfer.

The relationship which Mariner seemed to begin to develop with Ransom in the previous episode is no-more. It seems that Star Trek: Lower Decks is going to take a more generic, story-of-the-week, approach that most adult comedy series follow. The series could elevate its storytelling to a new level if it followed a more serialised nature like Harley Quinn. Whilst stories can still be episodic, the series can build a more familial foundation by allowing relationships to develop throughout the season.

Star Trek: Lower Decks feels slightly damned-if-it-does-damned-if-it-doesn’t. As the series leans in to Trek lore it highlights how much this particular series has moved away from the original show. But as it leans in to the unique comedy it moves away from what makes it Trek.

Like the episodes before it “Moist Vessel” is full of Easter eggs to previous versions of the franchise. I particularly laughed at Ransom leaning on his chair in a very Riker style. We also see the command crew playing poker which is a classic TNG trope. There’s even a mention for the classic holodeck villain Professor Moriarty.

Boimler (Jack Quaid) takes a bit of a backseat this week. The series continues to try and balance him against Mariner as co-lead. Both feel like well rounded characters and able to carry a full episode on their shoulders. The episode does lack some of that sparky dialogue between the two as they share little screen time this week.

Once again Tendi (No’l Wells) and Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) are relegated to the B-plot of the episode. Tendi is working with Lt. O’Conner (guest star Haley Joel Osment), a crew member who is preparing to ascend to a higher being. The subplot comes off as an attempt to flesh out Tendi’s character as she learns she isn’t the only member of the USS Cerritos crew who is desperate to fit in.

At four weeks in each of the cast has seen some development in their character. But there is still some disparity about whether this is a true ensemble cast or not. At this stage it would also be interesting to see the four characters share a plot line. Something akin to the TNG episode also called “Lower Decks.”

“Moist Vessel” features the most outlandish plot line of the series to date. The idea of terraforming the USS Cerritos allows the artists to craft a very unique looking episode. It also makes the ship a more interesting location as the crew lose control of the environment around them.

But despite all of the laughs and all of the lore, I can’t help but ask myself if Lower Decks is doing enough to become compelling viewing.

Verdict

“Moist Vessel” is another episode which perfectly fits the Star Trek: Lower Decks formula. But at four weeks in the series needs to step up hold on to viewers.

7/10

Star Trek: Lower Decks stars No’l Wells as Ensign Tendi; Eugene Cordero as Ensign Rutherford; Tawny Newsome as Ensign Mariner and Jack Quaid as Ensign Boimler.


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