"We’ll Always Have Tom Paris" is a good, solid, entertaining example of what this show might be in its most sustainable and prototypical episodic form. Although this show has been more insanely inventive in the past, this episode represents the straightforward sweet spot, featuring a series of comic adventures and character-based interactions that are breezy, fun, and mostly unannoying. The fact that it spreads things around across all the major characters is also in its favor.
To be sure, there’s no shortage of Trek and fandom references. While these are sometimes too frequent and pushy, and I’m not going to list them, a lot of them work and are worth a laugh or at least a smile. Probably my favorite was Boimler constantly referring to Voyager as "VOY." (Why, how, and who, back in 1995, decided that would be the abbreviation for the show, anyway?) VOY’s very own Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill extends the list of ’90s-era Trek actors to guest on this show) is visiting the Cerritos and Boimler is excited. But of course he would be: He owns the limited-edition Tom Paris collectible plate.
The titular character of "Kayshon, His Eyes Open" is the first Tamarian in Starfleet (see TNG‘s "Darmok"), who has been posted on the Cerritos as the new security chief. He doesn’t always speak in metaphors; just sometimes. But Kayshon and the title are red herrings, because they have relatively little to do with the episode, especially after Kayshon is transformed into a stuffed toy as a result of an energy beam aboard the museum-like ship of a dead curator, whose collection the Cerritos is helping catalog. (Talk about your low-priority missions.)
"Kayshon" is a notable step up from the season’s premiere episode, but I still found it lacking … something. This is an action-centric episode that’s light on solid jokes and heavy on attacks by armies of flying Roombas. Don’t get me wrong; it’s perfectly okay and I grinned a number of times — but this is not something that I feel like I should be going out of my way for.
“Strange Energies” opens with Mariner being interrogated in a Cardassian prison (“Chain of Command” style), which she breaks out of in a lively action sequence where she, as one individual, takes on an entire security force in a daring and fantastical escape. It’s a holodeck “workout routine” fantasy, but a fun and inventive one that serves as a good curtain raiser for the new season.
Unfortunately, I can’t really get behind most of the rest of the episode, which borrows from TOS and TNG highlight reels and amps them up with Animation Zaniness. The strategy seems to be: start with a smallish character story, then filter that through escalating, over-the-top cartoon action. This has the paradoxical but predictable effect of things becoming more boring as they get more outlandish. By the end, I was zoning out.
A year ago, I announced I would not be reviewing Star Trek: Lower Decks. I had my reasons for that decision (like the endless commodification of the franchise into still more “product,” which I still believe is true), but the biggest reason was that I just didn’t have the will to take it on at the time.
I’m now announcing that I am reviewing Lower Decks, and I’m releasing all my reviews for season one instantly, Netflix style. You can go read them now. These are in my more condensed format — in the neighborhood of 500 words rather than 1,200 or 1,500 or more — that I’m thinking may be more of the norm for me for some shows moving forward.
I will say that I struggled with this series, especially early on. A lot of the problems I noticed in the original trailer a year ago were indeed problems that I experienced watching the show. To call this series “uneven” would be an understatement. The success rate was about 40 percent, and the lows were lower than the highs were high. That said, I found enough of value in this series to continue on with it. It’s a journey I took alone, as my wife declared the show unwatchably annoying within five minutes and tapped out. I understand her position, but I soldiered on, and while I did not love this, I found things in it to like, which you will see if you read the reviews.
Besides, I’m a completist running a website here, and with season two coming in August and nothing else happening in the Trek universe at the moment, I want to be up to date with what’s going on.
On the maintenance/administrative front, I have moved all the comments that those of you made over the past year on the general Lower Decks placeholder commenting page to the new Lower Decks review pages. Because I’m thoughtful like that. For the most part, they should align with the reviews they were meant to be posted on, but there may be some mistakes I made in moving them around. It’s the best I could do without sinking a ton of time into it.
As promised — at this point, too long ago — here are reviews for the rest of The Mandalorian‘s first season.
I’ve unfortunately found very little time to write due to a slew of home improvement projects that have kept me extremely busy for the past three months. So hopefully these reviews, although they may not seem like a lot to account for the past two months without any update here, will be something to tide you over until I can get back to something on a more consistent basis. Fortunately, it looks like there’s still some time before any shows that I cover here return.
For now, you can revisit Mando getting perpetually double-crossed, whether it’s on Tatooine, on a prison ship, or back on Nevarro. This guy just can’t trust anyone, can he? I wonder why he still bothers.
I swear I did not plan to post these reviews on May the Fourth day; it just happened to work out that way. Happy coincidences.