‘Lower Decks’ Takes on the AI Apocalypse in “A Few Badgeys More”

Episode 407 welcomes (?) the return of not one, not two, but THREE evil robots.

Lower Decks is at its best when it takes on long-standing sci-fi tropes, many of which became tropes in the first place because of Star Trek, and takes them in a totally absurd direction while also embracing the the warm, fuzzy, optimistic hearts of its crew. Episode 407, “A Few Badgeys More”, does just that, while also providing payoff for long-running story lines (another thing Lower Decks is particularly good at).

Remember Badgey, the AI Starfleet badge that Rutherford created as a training tool that went rogue? Well, he’s still alive and well inside Rutherford’s old eyepiece, and when that gets salvaged by Drookmani scavengers, he takes over their ship. Dun, dun, dun!

Not long after, the random mysterious murder ship that’s been attacking alien vessels all season appears to randomly and mysteriously attack yet another: Bynar this time.

Meanwhile, on the Cerritos, our four lower deckers are working on a new shuttle, which Rutherford has installed with a grappler (flashback to La’an’s muttered “I love grapplers” in Strange New Worlds episode “Those Old Scientists”!), which promptly misses its target and pins Tendi to the wall. But Tendi doesn’t mind! Science is supposed to be messy! That turns out to be an important point for Rutherford to remember…

The fun and games are put on pause when they’re called to the briefing room. The Cerritos will be investigating the Bynar distress call. And then we are reintroduced to two more evil AIs: Peanut Hamper, who’s up for AI parole, and AGIMUS, who claims to have intel on the mysterious random murder ship. Tendi is to appear at Peanut Hamper’s parole hearing, and Boimler is to talk to AGIMUS, who refuses to give the intel to anyone else. Now, if you’ll remember, the two AIs were cellmates of sorts in AI jail…

… where both appear to be making progress in Starfleet’s touch-y feel-y AI rehab program. They’re happily doing their therapy gardening, and… PSYCH! Actually, they’re planning to use Tendi and Boimler to escape. Peanut Hamper will give a gooey speech about how good she is and be let go, and AGIMUS will use Tendi and Boimler to get out. Then they’ll rendezvous on a beach and find a nice little planet to conquer.

The plan works, but Lower Decks wouldn’t be Lower Decks if that were all there was to it. I’ll confess, I expected Tendi and Boimler to have to pull something wild and clever to defeat them. Instead, it’s even better… Peanut Hamper stands up AGIMUS, and we’re treated to an evil AI’s being-stood-up anxiety and ensuing self care: Conquering that nice little planet. But none of it means anything without Peanut Hamper! Where is she?!

Answer: Being a good little exocomp with her dad and the rest of them. Because actually, while pretending to be good, she decided she really did want to be good. And AGIMUS confesses he isn’t that into conquering anymore. He just wants to hang out with his friend. Aww. So Lower Decks upended one cliche (evil robots) with another (everyone’s good inside!).

Now, all that was the B story line. As the title suggests, the A story line involves Rutherford confronting Badgey. After Badgey uses the Drookmani ship to attack the Cerritos, Rutherford tries to sacrifice himself by going over to the ship. Mariner tags along because… she’s Mariner… and the two come face-to-face with the sentient badge.

Here, Lower Decks also upends one cliche (evil AI!) with another (he just needed a hug). Rutherford literally hugs Badgey and apologizes for treating him as an experiment instead of a son. Which sends Badgey into a crisis. He seems to relent, then he pushes out the good side of himself, creating Goodgey (get it? Heh… gotta love how unsubtle Lower Decks can be). Badgey then decides to destroy the entire Federation and uploads himself into subspace relays. But spreading himself across the entire galaxy causes him to reach a higher level of understanding, and he decides he doesn’t want to destroy things any more… and ascends to a higher plane of existence…

“Ascending”, or becoming some kind of divine energy being, is an idea that has existed in the Star Trek universe in many forms… Kes in Voyager, Captain Sisko in Deep Space Nine, and, in a way, Wesley Crusher and Kore Soong when they join the Travelers. It’s a pretty ridiculous concept, and Lower Decks previously poked fun of it in Episode 104, when a lieutenant ascended after lots of chanting and stuff. And of course, when Badgey ascends, he sees the great cosmic koala that’s been a running joke on the show.

After all that, Boimler does get some intel on the murder ship… turns out the alien vessels were being kidnapped, not destroyed. Rutherford goes back to work on his grappler, using Goodgey as an AI guidance system (the others aren’t so sure about that).

“A Few Badgeys More” sees the delightful return of three megalomaniacal AIs that each intentionally embody one cliche or another, then resolves all their story lines in a rather absurd but actually very Star Trek-y way: Finding enlightenment and redemption.

5/5 stars

Mary Fan
Mary Fanhttp://www.MaryFan.com
Mary Fan is a Jersey City-based author of sci-fi/fantasy. Her books include Stronger than a Bronze Dragon, the Starswept Trilogy, the Jane Colt Trilogy, the Flynn Nightsider series, and the Fated Stars series. She is also the co-editor of the Brave New Girls sci-fi anthologies about girls in STEM.

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Lower Decks is at its best when it takes on long-standing sci-fi tropes, many of which became tropes in the first place because of Star Trek, and takes them in a totally absurd direction while also embracing the the warm, fuzzy, optimistic hearts of...'Lower Decks' Takes on the AI Apocalypse in "A Few Badgeys More"