Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 premiere recap: Second Contact

Star Trek: Lower Decks premiere featuring Eugene Cordero as Ensign Rutherford, Tawny Newsome as Ensign Beckett Mariner, Jack Quaid as Ensign Brad Boimler and Nol Wells as Ensign Tendi
Star Trek: Lower Decks premiere featuring Eugene Cordero as Ensign Rutherford, Tawny Newsome as Ensign Beckett Mariner, Jack Quaid as Ensign Brad Boimler and Nol Wells as Ensign Tendi /

We meet the crew of U.S.S. Cerritos in the Star Trek: Lower Decks premiere.

The Star Trek: Lower Decks premiere episode establishes how the newest series in the Star Trek franchise is a departure from its predecessors. It is humorous and gory, but since it’s an animated show you’re unlikely to be perturbed by horrors the crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos become embroiled in.

The central protagonists, as introduced during the recent SDCC@Home panel, are Eugene Cordero (Ensign Rutherford), Tawny Newsome (Ensign Mariner), Jack Quaid (Ensign Boimler), Noël Wells (Ensign Tendi), Dawnn Lewis (Captain Freeman), Jerry O’Connell (Commander Ramson), Fred Tatasciore (Lieutenant Shaxs) and Gillian Vigman (Dr. T’Ana).

So, who are these unlikely heroes? In the Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 premiere, we find out what it really takes to oversee second contact in the Federation.

Star Trek: Lower Decks premiere – The Spy

The show begins with Ensign Boimler recording a log as a captain, only to be caught out by resident rule-breaker Ensign Mariner. Mariner teases Boimler while drunk on Romulan whiskey, before digging out a bat’leth which she waves around with abandon. She’s so careless, Mariner accidentally slices a deep gash in Boimler’s leg. And with that, the funniest scene of the premiere episode kicks off the show.

Pictured: Tawny Newsome as Ensign Mariner of the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS.
Pictured: Tawny Newsome as Ensign Mariner of the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS. /

While there’s humor to be found, later on, none quite lives up to the opening sequence.

Ahead of the Cerritos’ mission to complete second contact with a new species, Ensign D’Vana Tendi joins the crew. She’s excited to enter the big leagues and is star-struck by everything she sees, even the view from the backend of the ship, where the lower deck officers sleep.

Let’s be honest, we would all react like Tendi if we were given a Starfleet assignment. I for one would gladly take on any duty roster aboard Voyager if I had the chance because I love that ship and its crew. So yes, Tendi, we feel you.

Tendi’s orientation mentor is Boimler, who’s orientation tour is hi-jacked by Mariner. Mariner doesn’t care about the higher-ranked officers, nor about protocol. She is least interested in showing Tendi the important parts of the ship and instead takes her to the holodeck.

Boimler is so strait-laced that his ideal holodeck program is of the ship’s warp core, while Mariner’s is a risqué gym program. Talk about a bad apple!

Mariner’s rule-breaking hasn’t gone unnoticed by the head of the ship. Captain Freeman tasks Boimler with spying on Mariner to report any indiscretions on the latter’s part. Now, we all know that Boimler has his eye on the captain’s chair, so he’s eager to take up the assignment.

He’ll have his chance soon enough.

Star Trek: Lower Decks premiere – Zombie Attack

The meat of the episode lies in the Cerritos engaging in second contact with the Galerdonian people. The ship’s mission is to ensure all the paperwork is in order for new species to join the Federation, but also – importantly – setting up universal translators so that the Federation can communicate with their new entrants.

Meeting alien species in the Star Trek universe is always dicey. You never know who will be offended by an innocuous action, or what infection you’ll accidentally bring aboard the ship. Well, a little bit of both happens in the premiere.

As the ship’s first officer, Ransom, greets the Galerdonians, he is bitten by a native insect. For some reason, the transporters do not pick up the anomalous biological entity.

It’s possible the transporter’s filtration system was malfunctioning (there are plenty of malfunctions on Cerritos, as we see in the premiere), or the system was unfamiliar with the new species and didn’t track Ransom’s bite as a danger.

Ransom wanders around the ship, before the infection takes hold in the bar, turning him into a full-on zombie. Ransom goes on a biting spree, leading to everyone in the bar becoming infected. Utter mayhem and chaos ensue.

Star Trek: Lower Decks premiere – To the Rescue

Pictured: Eugene Cordero as Ensign Rutherford of the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS.
Pictured: Eugene Cordero as Ensign Rutherford of the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS. /

In most Star Trek shows, the day is saved by the Bridge officers, which is understandable as they’re the best people for the job. But hey, they can’t handle it all on their own! As we see from this Star Trek: Lower Decks premiere, sometimes you need the underdogs to step up.

When the infection takes hold in the bar, Ensign Rutherford, a new cyborg, is on his first date. Everything’s going swimmingly before Ransom’s outbreak. Rutherford and his date are unflappable. They keep cool heads, and continue chatting about their interests, all while stunning their rabid comrades.

Just as it seems like these two may be a perfect match, Rutherford discovers that the Red Alert system has blocked comm badge entry to the elevators. He’s more interested in fixing that than engaging with his date, so that’s the end of that.

Meanwhile, Tendi reports to the medical bay which is overrun by patients. Dr. T’Ana curtly directs her to manually pump the heart of a fellow crewman while she subdues more crewmembers. How will the Cerritos survive this attack?

Help is on the way, but it doesn’t know it yet. On the Galerdonian planet, Boimler spots Mariner trading Federation technology with the locals. If there’s one thing we know about Star Trek, it’s that the Prime Directive prohibits the exchange of technology with aliens.

Boimler is convinced Mariner is giving the Galerdonians weapons and confronts her. In fact, Mariner is tired of bureaucracy withholding farming supplies and she’s sneaking some to them. I think that’s still against the Prime Directive, but who’s going to argue with Mariner.

The locals make a run for it, leaving a giant spider to chase Mariner and Boimler. The spider then proceeds to swallow Boimler. Once it’s tired and asleep, Boimler and Mariner return to the ship. Dr. T’Ana runs a quick scan of Boimler and discovers that the slime he’s covered in could be the cure. And voila! Boimler saves the day.

Except… Dr. T’Ana gets the credit in Captain Freeman’s log, while Boimler is forgotten. His faith in the officers shaken, Boimler doesn’t rat out Mariner to the captain.

Star Trek: Lower Decks premiere – Final Thoughts

So, why is the captain so interested in Mariner? Mariner was earlier part of the Keto crew who made first contact with the Galerdonians. Now she’s a lowly officer aboard Cerritos. We find out from Freeman’s conversation with the Keto captain that Mariner is their daughter and she’s been demoted so that she’ll behave. Is anybody else a little bit displeased with this turn of events? I am.

The episode ends with Mariner and Boimler cementing their friendship and Rutherford bonding with Tendi over their shared love of checking diagnostics. Funny and adorable. Please let Tendi and Rutherford remain friends and not get shoe-horned into a romance. Actually, let’s make sure Mariner and Boimler don’t turn out to be the Leela and Fry of the series either.

This series is irreverent, unlike the franchise shows before it. I thought the premiere was a little too heteronormative, and I’m hoping that changes soon. The humour is there, but occasionally it tried too hard.

I worry that Captain Freeman’s characterization will be governed by her feud with her daughter, rather than being a confident captain and person in her own right. I want the show to prove me wrong.

Star Trek: Lower Decks seems to want to entertain and not inform with its dark humour. It’s possible the show can move beyond its satirical approach and challenge the notion of who is essential and is remembered by history. That would make the show incredibly relevant to the times.

Next: Episodes to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: Voyager

What did you think of the Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 premiere? Let us know in the comments below.

New episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks are available every Thursday on CBS All Access.