Hey, did you notice that random, inexplicable ship that kept randomly and inexplicably destroying various alien vessels in the first four Lower Decks episodes this season? Well, Starfleet finally has, which is why the Cerritos has been tasked with safely escorting three Betazoid diplomats to Risa. These diplomats all come in the Lwaxana Troi model: outrageous, fun-loving ladies in big poofy gowns. They drink oversized cocktails, hit on the senior staff, and start a party in the mess hall. And the most of the crew is thoroughly enjoying this excuse to let loose; even Captain Freeman, who’s determined to show her guests a good time.
But not everyone is having fun. T’Lyn, who originally joined the Cerritos after getting booted off a Vulcan vessel for being “emotional,” is completely over the ship’s chaos. She’s had it up to her eyeballs with their antics and composes a logically worded note essentially begging the Vulcans to take her back. Except communications have been blacked out for security reasons—presumably to avoid detection by the random inexplicable murder ship—and she can’t send her message. After initially ignoring Mariner’s entreaties to join the party, T’Lyn finally goes to the bar… for the logical purpose of finding out when the blackout will be lifted.
Also not having fun? Our darling try-hard Boimler, of course. In true Boimler fashion, he’s taking his promotion super seriously and believes he must know every member of the crew by name, then beats himself up when he fails his self-imposed test. Rutherford, understandably perturbed by his friend/roommate’s behavior, calls upon Shaxs for help. Boimler thinks he’s about to be introduced to some bad-ass security training and is dismayed when Shaxs instead introduces him to a casual hang-out that involving slam poetry, puzzles, and tarot cards.
Meanwhile, the party has gone too far, and Freeman is unable to stop her crew from their out-of-control antics. Migleemo going to war with a replicator. Ransom reduced to a weeping mess because one of the Betazoids rejected him. Tendi’s friend-crush on T’Lyn going wild… though her desire to be T’Lyn’s best friend has been so strong that maybe she’s just being Tendi? In any case, the entire crew in the bar explodes with fights and tears and make-outs, and it’s obvious something is wrong.
“Crew is infected by mysterious alien thing and starts acting like animals” is a long-standing tradition in the Star Trek universe, from the original series’ “The Naked Time” (the shirtless Sulu with sword episode) to The Next Generation‘s “The Naked Now” (the Yar-bangs-Data episode). And Deep Space Nine fans will immediately recall how Lwaxana Troi caused similar chaos on the space station due to a Betazoid disease that amplified her telepathic abilities and projected them onto those around her. Betazoids plus crew chaos… The Cerritos must be dealing with the same thing, right?
Freeman certainly thinks so, and orders her guests to sick bay. But wait, this is Lower Decks! And it wouldn’t be Lower Decks if there weren’t some wild twist around the midpoint, would it?
Turns out the diplomats are actually super bad-ass intelligence officers masquerading as elite party girls. Suspicious of the captain’s intentions after she tries to detain them, the three whip out their lipsticks, which transform into baton weapons, and rush to take over the ship, determined to head back to Betazed to sort things out even though it means crossing the Romulan neutral zone.
As much as we love Deanna and Lwaxana Troi, the fact that they’re the two most prominent Betazoids in the Star Trek universe doesn’t exactly make Betazed seem like a particularly important planet. Unlike other alien crew members, such as the Vulcan Spock or the Klingon Worf, Deanna doesn’t engage much with her home planet or culture outside of her interactions with her mother. She doesn’t get called back to Betazed for some important ritual; her loyalties are never torn between her Starfleet duties and her home planet. And Lwaxana mostly appears to rile her daughter and hit on Odo. The only other notable Betazoid we meet is Lon Suder, a member of Voyager‘s crew who commits murder and winds up being an interesting character, but again, doesn’t tell us much about the planet. Throughout the Next Generation era of shows, it feels like Betazed is a planet in name only.
So it’s quite refreshing (and very Lower Decks) to show another side of Betazed via three intelligence officers with formidable combat skills. They deny they’re the cause of the emotional chaos, and T’Ana’s scans prove it. In fact, they’re infected themselves, and even in such a state, they’re able to take over the entire Cerritos. If this is what Betazed has to offer, then it’s no wonder Sisko flipped out when the planet fell to the Dominion in Deep Space Nine.
The true cause of the emotional chaos turns out to be T’Lyn, who, it’s revealed, is suffering from an alien sickness of her own. In a heart-to-heart with Mariner, she reveals, in her calm Vulcan way, her anger at having been booted off the Vulcan ship for being “emotional” when her unsanctioned actions saved her crew. Way back in the Season 2 episode, “wej Duj,” we witnessed her objection to and sense of injustice over her banishment. That frustration, buried behind a million layers of Vulcan control and logic, has finally manifested in the form of a medical condition. It’s an apt (and unsubtle) metaphor for what can happen when you work too hard to repress certain feelings, only to have the stress eat you alive from the inside out. And the resolution is for T’Lyn to finally acknowledge and address her frustration. A bit simplistic? Sure. But given the entire episode is focused on T’Lyn’s emotional (or unemotional) journey, it works, particularly since the show has spent the past several episodes building her up as a central character.
In a fitting, if not entirely interesting, parallel, Boimler discovers that all the slam poetry, puzzles, and cards are what the security crew needs to do to center themselves… so that they can snap into action with phasers and kickass maneuvers when the ship goes on red alert. The resolution was obvious from the beginning, yet seeing it play out was still plenty entertaining (Betazoid intelligence officer being knocked out by a security officer who’s emotionally centered thanks to slam poetry? I’d expect nothing less, Lower Decks).
The message of the episode is clear: Emotional wellness matters, folks! Take care of yourselves!
It all works out in the end, as Lower Decks episodes do. The security crew stops the Betazoids before the Cerritos enters the neutral zone (much to the disappointment of a lurking Romulan crew), and T’Lyn’s emotional breakthrough leads to her releasing her telepathic hold on the crew, who return to normal. The Betazoids apologize for the misunderstanding and leave Freeman with an image of Random Inexplicable Murder Ship, dropping another bread crumb on the Ultimate Season Arc.
While the plot wasn’t particularly innovative, the spotlight on T’Lyn and the glimpse at Betazoid badassery elevated the episode above the “Naked Hour”/”Naked Now” chaos with signature Lower Decks cleverness and heart.