The second episode of Lower Decks brings the fun by mixing up its crew
This week’s episode, “The Least Dangerous Game,” opens with our four favorite lower deckers engaging in a Klingon role-playing game with a virtual Martok as the dungeon master. But the fun is soon interrupted when rules-breaking Ensign Mariner, now on a tight leash after her fed-up captain and mom turned her over to Commander Ransom in hopes of straightening her out, is summoned for a new mission. Then Tendi tells the others that their former crewmate Vendome, who just last season was a fellow lower decker, has been promoted to captain of the USS Inglewood. Which of course frustrates the famously over enthusiastic try-hard Boimler, whose repeated brown-nosing and attempts to get promoted have led nowhere.
Tendi suggests that Boimler step out of his comfort zone and start saying yes to more things, which could lead to more opportunity. Meanwhile, Rutherford and Mariner, along with their bosses Billups and Ransom, go to help the Dulainians, a health-and-wellness-obsessed alien culture, repair a space elevator (or “orbital lift”). It was fun seeing Lower Decks mix up its usual pairings of Mariner / Boimler and Tendi / Rutherford, a pattern that was called out by the show itself in Season 2. To further mess with the formula, Ransom decides that he and Mariner, from the command division, are going to take on the task of repairing the elevator while the engineers, Phillips and Rutherford, go down to greet the locals, over Mariner’s protests.
So now we have the usually over cautious Boimler saying “yes” to all kinds of wacky things, from a violent ball game to a dirge choir to art modeling. And at first, it seems to go well. He manages to impress Shaxs, the security chief, with his high-pitched scream (very useful for a dirge choir) and get over his fear of the creepy Chief Lundy. Proudly declaring himself to be “bold Boimler,” he announces that he will say “yes” to the next thing he’s asked to do, no matter what it is.
Well, we all knew how that was going to go… of course, the next request to come Boimler’s way is one that seems, even to the always-optimistic Tendi, to be a terrible idea. The very large, very scary alien K’ranch, stranded on the USS Ceritos while the space elevator is being repaired, has an urgent need to hunt to satisfy his instincts and needs someone to volunteer as prey. That someone is, naturally, the newly emboldened Boimler, who assumes “hunt” is some kind of metaphor. Upon learning that this is a real hunt with real weapons, the hapless ensign takes off screaming.
Meanwhile, Mariner is grousing about having to do the engineers’ jobs with fitness buff Ransom while the engineers are down on a paradise planet full of sexy aliens in skimpy outfits—a cheeky reference to the many scantily clad cultures of the original series. And like in the original series, these randomly underdressed aliens also have confusing cultures that result in the crew getting in trouble.
Billups and Rutherford, ever the bumbling engineers, soon go from sipping drinks on the beach to running for their lives after failing to bare their stomachs in a sacred space. Despite their pleas for help, Ransom insists that they can handle it and tells Mariner she has to trust her commanding officer, even after Billups is offered up for sacrifice. Finally, Mariner can’t take it anymore and throws on a skydiving suit so she can race down to the surface to save the day.
She’s a good way down when she gets a call from Ransom admitting that he was wrong, both about the situation and about her, since he thought she’d be incapable of not breaking the rules. The rules that she’s in the middle of breaking. Mariner sheepishly pretends she’s still on board and stops her descent, then makes the exhausting climb all the way back to the top to meet Ransom… only to have to dive back down with him. Once on the surface, Ransom impresses the wellness-obsessed locals with his buff dudebro physique and smooths things over.
Back on the Cerritos, Boimler flees K’ranch and begs Captain Freeman for help. Freeman casually dismisses him, saying she had a lovely brunch with K’ranch, and leaves Boimler to go running and screaming down the hallways. Boimler winds up back in the room where he and the others had been gaming and hears a pep talk from the virtual Martok program. Inspired by the bad-ass Klingon, Boimler decides to stop being hunted by becoming the hunter, strapping on a weapon and smudging his face with random face paint. He marches up to K’ranch and declares his intentions, only to immediately receive a spear to the shoulder. Having triumphed, K’ranch bears down and… takes a photo. Turns out, K’ranch’s culture believes in “catch and release.” Impressed with Boimler’s performance as prey, K’ranch promises to put in a good word with the captain.
What makes Lower Decks so much fun is that while it’s full of in-jokes for longtime Trekkies, its sheer ridiculousness makes it accessible even for casual fans. “The Least Dangerous Game” pokes fun at many tropes of sci-fi, many of which became tropes because of the original Star Trek, yet remains Trek to the core with its themes of cultural tolerance (even Goop-y aliens that worship ads deserve respect!).