Miss the Ferengi? Well, you’re in luck! Episode 406 of Star Trek: Lower Decks, “Parth Ferengi’s Heart Palace,” is an Easter Egg-packed jaunt back to the home world of everyone’s favorite alien capitalists.
The Cerritos is tasked with the surprisingly significant mission of initiating the process for Ferenginar to join the Federation. Now, they’re just going to get the initial application signed, but still, it’s an unusually important task for the “least important ship in Starfleet.” But of course, the whole thing is an excuse for the Lower Decks crew to engage in some hijinks, and for Deep Space Nine characters Rom and Leeta, now the Grand Nagus and First Clerk, respectively, to return.
The episode opens with the mysterious random murder ship that’s been picking off various alien vessels one by one. This time, it’s a Ferengi vessel, which goes boom after a few references to how Rom runs things differently than previous Naguses. Which won’t come as a surprise for anyone with fond memories of Deep Space Nine’s Ferengi episodes.
In fact, the whole episode serves as an amusing nostalgia trip for Deep Space Nine fans; I’m not sure it’d make much sense to anyone who (for whatever inexplicable reason) didn’t watch that show. While Lower Decks at times can serve as general sci-fi comedy — something that even non Trekkies can watch and chuckle at — ultimately it’s a show for the fans, and “Parth Ferengi’s Heart Palace” is one of the more insider-y episodes.
By the way, the title is a reference to Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, which is apparently a 1980s cult classic. Talk about insider-y.
Anyway, Captain Freeman and Admiral Vassery greet Rom and Leeta for what Vassery believes will be the quickest signing ever. But of course it isn’t that easy. Rom starts picking at the paperwork, and Leeta pulls Freeman and Vassery aside to say that her husband just needs to feel involved, so why don’t they just let him futz around with some numbers? Freeman sees right through her ploy, but Vassery is suckered into opening up everything for negotiation, at which point Rom and Leeta start playing hardball.
Predictable? Quite. Entertaining? Absolutely. In fact, the Freeman/Rom/Leeta plot line is by far the strongest one in this episode. Not only because we get to see two old faves return — voiced by original actors Max Grodénchik and Chase Masterson, of course! — but because it’s thoroughly amusing to watch Vassery crumble while Freeman gets to be BOSS.
The B/C/D plots of the episode follow our lower deckers on a cushy assignment: updating Starfleet’s travel guide for Ferenginar. In other words, a free vacation in exchange for writing reviews — every influencer’s dream! It’s thanks to some favoritism from Ransom that Mariner, Boimler, Tendi, and Rutherford get this plush assignment… a fact that makes Mariner feel weird. For the first time, she has nothing to rebel against. Ransom mentions that part of the assignment is to check out attractions meant for couples, and that because the Cerritos has the horniest and most commitment-phobic crew, there are no married officers, and therefore besties Tendi and Rutherford are tasked with pretending to be married. In true Tendi and Rutherford fashion, they are delighted and enthusiastic. Wellp, we all know how that’s gonna go…
What happens next is pretty much what you’d expect. Mariner self-sabotages — she goes to meet a Ferengi friend and promptly guzzles alcohol and gets into a bar fight for absolutely no reason. Rutherford and Tendi have fun pretending to be a couple at first but soon get squicked out in the “it’s like dating my sibling” kind of way while the Ferengi shower them with increasingly ridiculous couple-y things (heart-shaped bed, costumed photo shoot, chocolate statues of each other in provocative positions…).
The one twist (if you can call it that) comes from Boimler, who in true Boimler fashion has an ambitious to-do list of things to check out and review. But he ends up getting sucked into Ferengi TV instead and spends the entire time binge-watching trash… a situation we can all relate to.
This season seems to be setting up Mariner’s character for some kind of internal reckoning. Since her unexpected promotion at the beginning of the season, she’s been chafing against the fact that people want her to succeed. That Starfleet superiors like Ransom recognize her talent even when she’s being her Mariner-est, and they’re not looking to demote her (again). Will she finally step up and embrace her potential as an officer… and would she still be our Mariner if she does? I have a feeling we’ll find out around the same time they resolve the murder ship arc… at the very end of the season.
All in all, the episode had some good jokes (“It’s what Heaven would look like if God was stupid!”, the “Will They / Won’t They” Office parody), and of course the whole point was to revisit Ferenginar, where we get to see some ridiculously capitalistic Ferengi things (e.g. monuments to lost money). And perhaps that’s enough for what is, ultimately, a cartoon parody show. However, Lower Decks has generally gone a bit beyond that, by also feeling like a Star Trek show at heart. “Parth Ferengi’s Heart Place” states squarely in cartoon-parody territory, staying safely in sitcom-y / referential humor territory, and because it previously set the bar so high for itself, this particular episode felt a bit light.
3.5 / 5 stars