Star Trek: Lower Decks: No Small Parts
October 8, 2020 7:19 AM - Season 1, Episode 10 - Subscribe

And lo, there shall be a season finale-ing... who lives, who dies, who tells their story?

Memory Alpha has the cutest name:

- "No Small Parts" derives from the theatrical aphorism "There are no small parts, only small actors." The origin of the saying is uncertain, but it has been attributed to the Russian director Konstantin Stanislavski and to the American actor Joseph Jefferson.

- With this episode, Jonathan Frakes becomes the only Star Trek regular cast member to appear in six different Star Trek television series.

- This is the first episode of the franchise to canonize the term "TOS", in reference to the crew from the 2260s, featured in Star Trek: The Original Series. It is also the first episode to quote the lyrics to "Where My Heart Will Take Me", the theme song from Star Trek: Enterprise.

- USS Titan made its first canonical appearance. The 2370s uniform was still in service aboard the Titan.

"Hey, Mariner! I'm Lieutenant Levy. We went on a date last year. I don't know if you recall."
"Yeah, Steve, I remember. You said Wolf 359 was an inside job."
"It totally was. So, hey, I was wondering, could you give this to your mom for me? It's just a few ideas I threw together on how to decorate the captain's yacht."
"Fine. Whatever."
"You're the best. Thanks, Mariner. Changelings aren't real. The Dominion War didn't happen!"

- Steve Levy and Mariner

"You think your mom would be okay with me and Shaxs making a little love connection? I'd love to snag that Bajoran beefsteak with my coital hooks."

- T'Ana

"This is the best day of my life!"

- Shaxs

Poster's Log:

I was wondering how LD would wrap things up for the season, and they obviously chose the "go out with a bang" with a side order of "teensy cliffhanger in the sense of how the gang will get back together". Mariner's secret is out to everybody, thanks to a suspiciously-left-open combadge, and Boimler's got his dream job--well, his ultimate dream job would probably be the big E-E, but he's on the ship with Riker and Troi and maaaaaybe W. Crusher and gets to wear the cool uniform and is a lieutenant j.g.; they could always use the reset button--if any show were to do so in the most lampshady way, it would be this one--but I still feel that this show cares too much about its characters to just do that for the sake of keeping the status quo. Sure, Boimler is generally the butt monkey, but I can't see his being demoted and transferred back to the Cerritos without being really bitter about the whole thing, and I don't know that they'd do that to him... unless they could make it really funny.

Everyone else gets their bits; Mariner is a little scary when she puts in the effort to straighten up and fly right, Tendi gets to show another new kid around (it may not seem fair to have Peanut Hamper desert everyone so quickly, but in all honesty, I wonder how many recent Starfleet Academy grads end up doing that--they get out into space, get freaked out by their first big mission, and go, screw this), and poor Rutherford loses his head-plate and has to start all over again. Toggling through his emotional states was kind of funny, and having to deal with Badgey again was likewise funny, but I'd really like to see him get to the point where he's more than just the implant.

Above and beyond the main characters, the ep was surprisingly dark, with the Solvang lost with all hands and the Pakleds leveling up to the point where they're basically the Borg crossed with Firefly's Reavers. There's even a bit of serious discussion WRT the Betans reverting to Landruism (would they be known as Landruids?) and how much they really want to have to do WRT follow-up on planets that they intervene in; maybe a big impetus for the Prime Directive is that it's just a big hassle to keep having to go back, man. (Someone should have kept an eye on the Pakleds, though.) And poor Shaxs, even though he died doing what he loved; I'm gonna miss Aggro Grandpa. (I'm not sure that I wanted any of the crew to go, except maybe Ransom about half the time, and that's kind of the point of Ransom.)

Overall, I think that this series' S1 was quite successful, and am looking forward to future installments quite a lot. Hopefully, they'll dig into some of the other main characters' backgrounds a bit. Last ep, 1970s Antihero suggested that there may be something to Tendi's backstory, and since she's my favorite character, I'd dig that.

Poster's Log, supplemental: Discovery starts next week, already!
posted by Halloween Jack (36 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Apologies if I've already linked to this Film School Rejects piece: 'Star Trek: Lower Decks' May Be a Cartoon Comedy, But it is 100% 'Trek'
"The cartoon series happily lampoons your favorite franchise but never betrays the soul of Gene Roddenberry."
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:47 AM on October 8, 2020 [4 favorites]

Given that animation has a more stretched-out production schedule than live action, I wonder which show came up with their Riker-ex-machina ending first?
posted by 1970s Antihero at 7:52 AM on October 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

“Wolf 359 was an inside job” is actually true, if you think about it.
posted by tiamat at 9:10 AM on October 8, 2020 [9 favorites]

The "contraband" Spock helmet might have been my favorite bit.

Huh. Fred Tataisciore is credited as the voice of Landru. I would have put money on that being Maurice LaMarche. And, speaking of Fred, poor Shaxs. I'm gonna miss him.
posted by hanov3r at 12:57 PM on October 8, 2020

The "contraband" Spock helmet might have been my favorite bit.

I take that back. That's my second favorite bit. The use of TAS pictures of Kirk and Spock for the PADD history of Beta III is my favorite bit.
posted by hanov3r at 1:08 PM on October 8, 2020 [19 favorites]

Optimistic mode? This is gonna be great!!
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:15 PM on October 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

maaaaaybe W. Crusher

Incidentally, a week and a bit ago Wil Wheaton posted on Facebook about the anniversary of the TNG premiere and observed that he is now a year older than Sir Patrick Stewart was when they started filming.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:31 PM on October 8, 2020 [6 favorites]

P.S. Since I once again forgot the Memory Alpha link, I stuck it in the right-hand column in the recap section--which is maybe not a bad place for it for the future?--and there's a lot more there now, but, CW, they show the frame where Shaxs rips out Rutherford's implant. Ouch.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:41 PM on October 8, 2020

This was so much fun.

I'm really glad I got into the Greatest Generation a few years back. I'm sure I wouldn't have picked up on nearly as many in-jokes in this show if it weren't for them.
posted by painquale at 12:17 AM on October 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

Steve Levy is probably named after Dan Harmon's assistant who would have interacted with the ST:LD writers on Rick & Morty.
posted by Marticus at 12:47 AM on October 9, 2020

One thing I'm excited about for season 2 is to see who else they put on the Titan; the Titan series of novels (of which there are TEN, beginning in 2005) establishes Tuvok and Ogawa as among the crew. Tuvok is my favorite Vulcan and one of my favorite Trek characters period. And don't say it couldn't happen: DISCO already set the precedent of a "two-ship show."

Great episode, maybe the most enjoyable of the season. It got the biggest laugh outta me so far, namely at Boimler's reaction when he looks at the captain after being beamed onto the bridge from Beta III. (I figure the comm badge might easily have been activated by one of those kids that was milling about.) The Spock cop helmet was a marvelous deep-cut too.

Amd good on them for getting a little serious!: Shax went out like a boss, but it's still a striking moment. As was the Solvang's loss; we've seen similar stuff many times in Trek, but to see it in animated form was somehow more hard-hitting, and they didn't weaken it by throwing in jokes among the screaming. They redeemed the Pakleds, which honestly was more than I expected (in retrospect, it would've been a goddamn crime for this show to not revisit the Pakleds somehow, but doing so carried risk, and they got it right IMO). And the Prime Directive critique in the captain's office was very cool and very fitting; are these writers reading Trek FanFare threads?!

Ayway, this has got to be the most solid season-1-finale of a Trek show since DS9's. Maybe an unfair comparison, since LOW is trying to do something so different from the other shows, but dammit, they pulled it off. Well done, McMahan and co.

And well done Halloween Jack! You have honored the will of Landru. See you next week!
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:00 AM on October 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

I thought this was a great episode and a really worthy season finale. My one complaint is that Riker is WAAAAY too chipper, but I loved the complete side-eye in every line from Troi. Can you imagine being a starship captain and having your wife sit next to you on the bridge all day long?

The Peanut Hamper nope-out was funny, but I would love to see her come back as a foil to Tendi.

The SPOCK helmet easter egg was utterly brilliant, but I really hope that they dial down the Trek-nerd refs in Season 2.
posted by briank at 6:53 AM on October 9, 2020

I was wondering why so many of the starships had names of cities in California (Cerritos, Solvang), and in this episode "Cali class" was mentioned. (California class - on Memory Alpha)
posted by ShooBoo at 10:06 AM on October 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

"‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ EP Mike McMahan On That TNG Cameo and LGBTQ Characters in Season 2"

Huh. I would not have picked out the two that McMahan names for LGBTQ characters.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:51 AM on October 9, 2020

From the interview that CheesesOfBrazil linked, I thought this comment on the Pakleds was interesting:
[F]or the finale one of the themes that we hadn’t hit on for the season yet that explicitly was metaphorically saying something about problems and the world right now. We needed a villain that kind of matched the re-rise of fascism, this thing that we thought we’d nipped in the bud is back! That’s why he wanted to take a character that was kind of a joke from the TNG episodes and say, what if, because they were a joke, people didn’t take them seriously enough, and they got too powerful, and now they are actually dangerous and people are paying with their lives for not taking them seriously?
posted by painquale at 2:34 PM on October 9, 2020 [10 favorites]

Another throwaway joke I laughed at was Riker performing the Picard Maneuver as he walked onto the bridge.
posted by haileris23 at 4:04 PM on October 9, 2020 [4 favorites]

I'm wondering what else Mariner has stowed aboard the Cerritos as contraband. Romulan ale, all kinds of weapons including a bat'leth - Riker really hooked her up.
posted by Roger Pittman at 5:29 PM on October 9, 2020

- Apparently "likes to watch holodeck programs about the NX Enterprise" is just a Riker thing now because the ST:E finale took place during TNG S7.
- I like Peanut Hamper. Noping out of a dangerous situation is definitely a Exocomp trait, albeit not a universal one.
- I still like my headcanon about the Pakled (that they're actually smarter than they seem, because the language they use on-camera is a simplified trade language, and their actual language is compatible with their close allies the Tamarians) but I like what they did with them, especially knowing that they're a metaphor for failing to nip fascism in the bud.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:48 PM on October 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've been one of those who have been overall disappointed with Discovery and Picard, but I've really enjoyed Lower Decks. Once again, animated versions of large franchises seem to be far more solid. The writing is consistent, which doesn't mean it didn't grow and improve, so it seemed, but it was like most of the entire story/season was, if not written, was largely in vision as it were. For me at least, Discovery and Picard had maybe a beginning and end but the middle seemed on the fly and didn't connect with any subtlety. This did.

The star sequence with the approach of the Solvang was beautiful.
posted by juiceCake at 5:56 PM on October 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

The destruction of the Solvang took my breath away.
posted by eckeric at 9:39 PM on October 9, 2020 [5 favorites]

Gotta say that was the best, most consistent and sane season of ST I've seen in several years. (I.e., it made a lot more sense than either Picard or Discovery.)
posted by suelac at 10:00 PM on October 9, 2020 [4 favorites]

Wow, where was THIS show all season!? What a finale.

A confession: if I'm hard on this show, it's because TNG's "Lower Decks" is by far my favorite episode of Trek ever...if not the execution, then the idea at least. And for years I've wanted a slice-of-life Star Trek show about the daily lives of junior officers. (Hell, I mentioned it here five years ago!) I know it's not fair to judge a show based on what I personally wanted it to be rather than what we got, but the concept of a character-based dramedy based on "Lower Decks" is so strong and now because this series exists we'll probably never get it.

But judging this show based on what we got...look, I honestly don't want to yuck anyone's yum here; I certainly didn't hate the show. But my god the bulk of the jokes were so tryhard that they seemed to be coming out of my speakers coated in flopsweat. I like Rick & Morty, I like Star Trek...but I just do not need Star Trek: Rick & Morty. And the constant, near-pathological need to make deep-cut fan service references felt like a case of demonstrating encyclopedic knowledge of the older shows in lieu of any deeper understanding of what made them work.

I wonder if I'd have liked this season more if the central character wasn't such an unlikable sociopath that the show clearly wanted me to love. I saw someone on Twitter call Mariner "an all-time great Star Trek villain" and honestly I sorta agree.

The writers seemed to think it would be charming and hilarious if one of the main characters thought the Star Trek universe was uncool. But I don't think the Star Trek universe is uncool, that’s why I'm watching Star Trek.

This isn't unique to Lower Decks, of course. "The Federation is embarrassing and old-fashioned and secretly corrupt" seems to be NuTrek's default setting. I'm not saying that the Federation has to be unquestionably perfect, but to me "utopia isn't a place, it's a process that requires constant work to maintain" is much much more interesting POV than Kurtzman's one-note "turns out this perfect society is secretly eeeeevil" clanger.

Again, I enjoyed this series for what it was and I still hold out hope that maybe next season will be more character-grounded: maybe Mariner will have growth that doesn't get reset at the beginning of next episode, maybe Rutherford and Tendi won't have nearly identical personalities, maybe now that Boimler's on the Titan he can step out from under Mariner's suffocating shadow, maybe the show will outgrow its "everyone's an asshole" worldview. This finale gave me a little hope.
posted by Ian A.T. at 5:01 PM on October 10, 2020 [4 favorites]

"The Federation is embarrassing and old-fashioned and secretly corrupt"

See, I didn't get that from LD at all. I got it from ST:PIC, and to a lesser extent from DISCO, but not from LD.

ST:LD to me is like, ST: Junior Varsity. It's telling the stories where the Federation/SF fail or fuck up through incompetence or complacency, but not through malice or corruption. Mariner is conflicted (and she should never have been posted under her mother's command, that's just ridiculous), but she's not actively evil or corrupt. Just kind of fucked up.

... frankly, I'm still waiting to see the ST series where they really go to the lower decks: where are the enlisted personnel and NCOs? Starfleet appears to be entirely comprised of officers! This is nonsensical. Where is Transporter Tech 1 and Life Support Master Chief? Officers are generalists, where are the technical tracks and newbies?
posted by suelac at 8:38 PM on October 10, 2020 [6 favorites]

Random nitpick - isn't this, technically, a THIRD contact mission? The original interaction with the Archon, the Enterprise interference 100 years later, and now the Cerritos?
posted by hanov3r at 5:43 PM on October 11, 2020

I thought the show was good. Looking forward to next season. I hope they break the fourth wall a little less and have slightly more consistency around the rules of reality -- I think those would be the good kind of artistic constraints, and make things funnier.

I hope they will ultimately revisit all the classic Star Trek episode concepts, but taking into account that nobody on the Cerritos is important:

-- "time travel to visit historical Earth" -- ideally revisiting the depressing 2020s from DS9

-- shore leave on Risa

-- actual Q episode

--dealing with Klingons

All this and more seems possible because animation is much less expensive!
posted by vogon_poet at 7:41 PM on October 11, 2020 [5 favorites]

I figured that Peanut Hamper's desertion in the Cerritos' time of need was a callback to that episode. After all, wasn't self-preservation the trait that tipped Data off to the Exocomps' possible sentience?
posted by Kitty Stardust at 4:44 PM on October 12, 2020

Hey, what a fun episode to end the season! This and the previous episode were big fun. I started off this season being very negative about the show; I still think that first episode was pretty bad. But they've found their rhythm and the characters have settled in a bit and it's working better. For me it's 100% about Mariner.

The part that's sticking in my throat a bit is that the original premise of the show, the Lower Decks crew, isn't the part I like. The part I like are these last two episodes where they emulate classic Star Trek adventure episodes, where our lower decks crew for Reasons is thrust into command and the center of the real action. Also I think I like the action parts better than the funny parts. That's all fine but I thought this was going to be a funny show about the folks who swab the decks and fix the plumbing. I don't mean to be doctrinaire about this but I do wonder next season where they'll go with it.
posted by Nelson at 8:56 AM on October 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed this season and this episode was excellent, in particular. But I do agree that I want some more people on the show who aren't on the officer track, and not because they're just too ~cool~ to get promoted or whatever.

One thing I want to just call out is that as displaced native Californians my husband and I have gotten consistent joy from the names of the California-class starships. I had never heard of Rubidoux and my husband, who's from the inland empire, got to rib me about it...but HE has never been to Solvang and I didn't even know!! And of course like any two people who grew up listening to Socal radio, when they first said the ship was called the Cerritos we turned to each other like " in Cerritos Auto Square??"
posted by potrzebie at 10:55 PM on October 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

What I want to know is do all the crew on the USS Solvang have to pretend like they're 19th century Danish peasants? Are their uniforms period costumes? Are the turbolifts powered by windmills? Does the replicator only make herring and smørrebrød? Imagine half-timbered bulkheads.
posted by Nelson at 8:29 AM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Who's that guy?
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:01 PM on October 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

Just watched this whole season over the course of the week, really enjoyed it. It's uneven and silly but easily worth watching. And "easily worth watching" is pretty good praise from my point of view, and not something I'd say for ST: Picard or DISCO, unfortunately. Part of the equation is that it's light and short.

I haven't watched DS9 or Voyager closely enough to catch anything but the more obvious references. However, it seemed like there were barely any of them, and it was like 70% TNG references, 20% TOs, and 10% other, which I found surprising. I guess they're trying to appeal to a broader audience, but when you're doing an animated Star Trek series on a non-Netflix streaming network, you've kind of thrown out any possibility for a broader audience.
posted by skewed at 10:50 AM on January 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

I finally got around to finishing this season and got the first actual laugh out loud moment there at the very end with Riker and Troi. It takes a lot to make me actually laugh rather than give a smirk of enjoyment, so I really appreciated that.
posted by wierdo at 2:09 AM on September 28, 2021

> the bulk of the jokes were so tryhard that they seemed to be coming out of my speakers coated in flopsweat.

Yeah, I like this show but am having the same annoyance. They're clearly good writers; I wish they'd relax a bit.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:39 AM on October 15

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