Star Trek: Lower Decks earns some high praise from mentors and colleagues when it counts  

Star Trek Lower Decks Mining The Mind's Mines Noël Wells Gillian Vigman Featured

Each member of the crew has something to prove when things get rocky aboard the Cerritos. 

The Cerritos is the low man on the totem pole. That’s part of its charm. The ship and its crew are overlooked, underappreciated, and don’t get the flashy missions that Galaxy Class, Enterprise-style ships do. So, of course, when it comes time to cross paths with other crew, our favorite ensigns have a bit of a chip on their shoulders. They’re used to being the butt of the joke, or worse, the chumps who have to clean up after the bigger, more prestigious vessels. 

That inferiority complex provides a good motivation for Mariner (Tawny Newsom), Boimler (Jack Quaid), and Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) when ordered to conduct a joint mission with an away team from the Carlsbad, a fellow California Class ship. The other crew seems to look down on the Cerritos faithful, prompting our unorthodox but effective heroes to try and buckle down and complete their task faster than their ostensibly snooty rivals can. The conflict provides solid fuel for the episode. 

Of course, this is Lower Decks, so the task isn’t as simple as realigning the warp coils or running shipwide diagnostics. Instead, Mariner, Boimler, and Rutherford must collect and neutralize scads of psychic mines that tantalize you with your chief fantasy but turn you to stone if you make contact. The setup is excellent fodder for the series’ loony sense of humor. 

Star Trek Lower Decks Mining The Mind's Mines The Full Team
Kari Wahlgren, Paul F. Tompkins, Carl Tart, Eugene Cordero, Tawny Newsome, and Jack Quaid head out on a mission. (PARAMOUNT+,CBS Interactive, Inc.)

Boimler dreams of being called into service by an admiral, even while still relegated to a motorcycle sidecar. In an adorable twist, Mariner blushes at the vision of her bikini-clad girlfriend, Jen, wanting to get serious in their relationship. And most fun of all, Rutherford pulls a Geordi La Forge, fantasizing about none other than Leah Brahms (with Susan Gibney reprising the role), alluring him with the chance to nerd out about the warp engines. The telepathic traps do a nice job of blending the show’s “anything goes” brand of sci-fi-infused humor with character-revealing gags. 

But Mariner, Boimler, and Rutherford aren’t the only young ensigns trying to prove themselves despite feeling a little underestimated and overmatched. While they’re fending off fantasies, Tendi (Noël Wells) starts her first day of senior science officer mentoring. Unfortunately, she discovers that, through the “alchemy of command,” her designated guide is none other than the inexperienced and inept ship’s counselor, Dr. Migleemo (Paul F. Tompkins). Pairing the factual-and-practical Tendi with Migleemo and his focus on squishy feelings makes for a nice mix of humor amid the mismatch. It also sets the stage for character growth as the avian advisor pushes Tendi to succeed in the soft skills that are less her forte. 

[E]veryone in the tongue-twister-titled “Mining The Mind’s Mines” gets a boost right when they need it.

He challenges her to become the “voice of science” with Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) and speak up despite the fear of being shouted down. It’s a nice obstacle for Tendi that clashes with her more deferential, ray of sunshine personality. The shy ensign is especially wary of piping up since Captain Freeman is facilitating treaty negotiations between a group of Federation scientists and the locals from the planet of the week, a group of silicate lifeforms called “The Scrubble.” The dispute serves as a fun way to poke fun at scads of “rock people” throughout Star Trek history. 

Despite Tendi’s anxiousness, Captain Freeman has troubles of her own. The young, hotshot captain of the Carlsbad she’s paired with for negotiations makes not-so-subtle insinuations about Carol’s age. She lobs a few barbs back, and the tension leads to a pissing contest over who should accept the locals’ gift of a pyramid-shaped rock, a symbol of old-school commander-style trinket collecting. It adds a nice wrinkle to Tendi’s daunting task, making the captain agitated and leaving the already tentative ensign even more reluctant to chime in. 

Star Trek Lower Decks Mining The Mind's Mines Kari Wahlgren Jack Quaid
Kari Wahlgren and Jack Quaid go crystal shopping. (PARAMOUNT+,CBS Interactive, Inc.)

And yet, everyone in the tongue-twister-titled “Mining The Mind’s Mines” gets a boost right when they need it. A dejected Tendi returns to sickbay, chastened from attempting to push her limits. But what she finds is a much-needed, characteristically irascible pep talk from Dr. T’Ana (Gillian Vigman). The good doctor tells Tendi she’s more than up to this, and she sometimes has to be willing to mess things up a bit to reach her full potential. In her unique way, the cranky cat tells Tendi she believes in her and provides the timeless and heartening encouragement to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy. 

Things are getting messy down on the planet, too, as the overzealous Lt. Cmdr. Stevens knocks over the bin of psychic mines, and the cracked orbs start producing nightmares rather than fantasies. Here too, Lower Decks has tons of fun melding traditional fears like snakes, clowns, and werewolves, with more standard Star Trek scare-mongers like the Borg, Klingon warriors, and a romantic partner promising you’ll become old and boring. The comical but fearsome attackers force the away teams from both ships to hide in a cave. 

As with last week’s episode, there’s no need to mess with the formula or premise that has worked so well for Lower Decks.

It’s there that Mariner, Boimler, and Rutherford learn that they are not, in fact, the laughing stocks of Starfleet but rather minor celebrities in the world of “Cali Class” crews. The Carlsbad ensigns weren’t trying to play superior to their Cerritos counterparts but rather trying to prove themselves worthy of the officers who’ve fought off the Pakled, survived alien trials/parties, and taken the Quadrant by storm. 

The reveal is delightful. Suddenly, our heroes aren’t the overlooked schmucks relegated to the worst missions; they’re the scrappy underdogs who’ve proven themselves in the field. It’s a nice boost for the good guys, as, amid the attack, they go on a classic Cerritos adventure and discover the supposedly squabbling Scrubble and Federation scientists are, in fact, working together. The subversion of standard Trek tropes is a fun take-off on “data mining,” with the two sides in cahoots to steal Federation intel and sell it for upgraded equipment and…uh…more rocks. 

Star Trek Lower Decks Mining The Mind's Mines Tawny Newsome Noël Wells
Tawny Newsome and Noël Wells share a giggle. (PARAMOUNT+,CBS Interactive, Inc.)

The reveal allows the Cerritos away team to foil the plot before the two parties can take advantage of their Federation facilitators. It gives Captain Freeman the win to help her show her value and reach a detente with her younger colleague. And most importantly, it gives Tendi the gumption to expose the alleged gift from the Scrubble as a rocky shell for a hidden brain-scanning device, becoming the “voice of science” her real mentor knew she could be. 

Tendi may be newer and more deferential than some senior science officers. Captain Freeman may be more seasoned than some ambitious up-and-comers. And our favorite ensigns on the Cerritos may be more unusual and less rule-bound than some of their colleagues. But each finds a way to make a name for themselves with their ability to get the job done, however peculiar or hilarious their methods may be. 

As with last week’s episode, there’s no need to mess with the formula or premise that has worked so well for Lower Decks. The Cerritos crew shouldn’t turn into well-recognized world beaters overnight. But it’s nice to see them receive their flowers from their fellow overlooked brethren, earning some recognition for achieving more than anyone expected, even themselves.

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