In a special surprise during the San Diego Comic-Con, Paramount dropped their much anticipated Strange New Worlds-Lower Decks crossover episode on Saturday night. Which makes sense, because this whole episode is just a lot of extremely fun fan service.
Crossovers are not unknown in the Star Trek universe. Bones McCoy appeared in the pilot of The Next Generation (in some truly bad old age makeup to portray him as 137 years old) to see off the NCC-1701-D. Picard was in the Deep Space Nine pilot. The Voyager stopped at DS9 (and Quark’s bar) on their way to regions unknown. And of course, Lower Decks has a bevy of guest voices from lots of different Trek shows – Riker, Kira, Quark, Tom Parris, Zephram Cochrane, etc. etc.)
Of course, this marks the first time an animated Trek show crossed over with a live-action one. So how would they do it? Would this be a Roger Rabbit affair, with live actors interacting with animated ones? Would the two shows with very different styles mesh together?
Short answer: It is awesome. It is everything you could hope for in a mash-up of the two best Trek shows on TV. If you are a fan, consider yourself serviced.
Now it would be highly illogical of me if I did not have a crossover of our own. So, joining me today is our resident Lower Decks recapper and biggest Lower Decks fan in the sector, Mary Fan. Welcome Mary!
So Mary, on a scale of 1-10, how insanely awesome was this episode? If you go lower than a 12 I’m going to question your fandom.
Mary: 8 million!!!!!!! Seriously this was the best thing I’ve seen on TV in a long time. Not because it’s cutting-edge sci-fi or anything, but because it was pure fun and wasn’t afraid to let everyone enjoy themselves
Victor: I was wondering if they’d incorporate the animation, and I was so glad to see the pre-credits opening be a first act from a standard Lower Decks episode. Of course, that is until Boimler gets time-portaled into the Enterprise. And, oh my, Boimler is an even cringier try-hard in real life than in animation. How is that even possible?
Mary: Oh yeah that was so much fun! I love how Jack Quaid and Tawny Newsome embodied the chaos of their cartoon characters. Like, they didn’t try to tone it down to be more “realistic” or anything. And I love that our Strange New Worlds regulars let their fun sides show too… especially Ethan Peck! Can we take a moment to appreciate Funny Spock?
Victor: That was terrifying. Like I pressed the button to watch the horror film Smile by mistake (also on Paramount+) I’ve written a lot about how Spock has been the stealth comedic secret on the show, and it works well here. It reminded me of Data trying to regulate his emotion chip on TNG.
Mary: Totally! When he was talking about experimenting with emotions, it reminded me of Data a lot.
Victor: So the plot here is really just an excuse to have Boimler and Mariner bounce off the Enterprise crew and fanboy out (Boimler heart Spock and Mariner is all about Uhura.) There’s a time portal on a remote planet that gets accidentally activated by Rutherford’s camera and Boimler gets dragged in and wakes up in the sick bay of the USS Enterprise. The past is an exciting and three-dimensional place!
Mary: Yup! Like any good Lower Decks episode, the stakes are soothingly low. Boimler wakes up on the Enterprise and, upon being told by Pike that they already know he’s a time traveler, starts fanboying like the adorkable nerd he is. The Enterprise crew comes up with some technobabble way to reactivate the portal so Boimler can return to his own time, except OOPS! Mariner leaps through instead and is like “You’re welcome for me coming to save you!” So now the Enterprise has two chaotic time travelers.
Victor: Yes, the exasperation in Pike’s voice when he says “FIVE to beam up…” That was absolutely the most Lower Decks way things could’ve gone. Mariner barging forward, trying to save her crew mate, but not paying any heed to anything else.
It is so much fun to watch Boimler and Mariner just fan out about their heroes, even while the heroes are just trying to do their work. After all, Uhura is 22! She doesn’t think of herself like that! And here’s this chaos bomb from the future staring at her as she tries to translate the portal tablet. I can only imagine if some random guy popped into my office and said “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! IT’S VICTOR’S ACTUAL OFFICE!” and stared at me as I did my work emails.
Mary: Haha yeah Uhura and Numera Una seemed especially weirded out. By the way, we are totally calling her that from now on.
Oh, I guess plot-wise there were also some Orions.
Victor: Right, “science” vessel… Gotta love Boimler, imposing his future norms on people. “In my time, it’s offensive to assume all Orions are pirates.” (Man, when did Star Trek get all WOKE and stuff? Can’t even call a pirate a pirate without the future PC police trying to cancel you…)
It was a fun little meta joke there, with Boimler trying to correct the captain about how you shouldn’t assume that Orions are all pirates, and then the Orions just flat-out steal the portal off the planet.
Mary: Totally! Except the Orions are willing to trade it back, in exchange for some grain the Enterprise was supposed to deliver. Anyway, all this is just an excuse for Mariner and Boimler to run amok on the Enterprise. And it really feels like one for the fans… they bring the same energy as if any of us got to go on the Enterprise, with that pure heart-of-gold energy that has made Lower Decks stand out from the beginning.
Victor: I honestly loved just how much they ignored La’an’s time travel commandments. “Don’t tell anyone about the future.” “Yeah, sure, oh did you know that Captain Pike’s birthday is a holiday in my time?”
Mary: Yup. I loved the awkward conversation between Boimler and Chapel about Spock’s experiments in human emotion. Though it is sad for Chapel since she kind of realizes that emotional Spock isn’t going to make it to the history books.
Victor: Yeah, that was heartbreaking. When Boimler realizes it’s not him making Spock act weird and then realizes that it’s Chapel and then realizes he’s put his foot in it. Awkward cringe all around.
Mary: So Boimler. We also got to see Mariner fangirl over Uhura.
Victor: That was great, especially when Mariner has this vision of Uhura being this party-hard badass. and Uhura is trying to read Bajoran language keys while being forced to relax. I loved Mariner knowing all the Starfleet regs about requiring meal breaks and such. Exactly the kind of thing she’d know inside and out.
And it was great that both Chapel and Ortegas instinctively knew that Boimler would be easy to mess with. “Oh, gotta watch out for that chrono-poisoning. Have you started turbo-vomiting yet?”
Mary: That was hilarious! And then Mariner tells Una that Boimler has a poster of her, and tells Pike that he dressed as him for Halloween. I love all the cringe at Boimler’s expense.
Victor: “He had to add a contour to the jawline and do the hair just right, it was a whole thing.”
And even though this was packed with all the humor we’ve come to expect from Lower Decks, there was still time for some very heartfelt moments. The look on Una’s face when Boimler tells her she is the literal poster girl for Starfleet in the future, complete with the old slogan Ad Astra per Aspera, After the whole court-martial, where Starfleet tried to erase her entire record, to know that she will be officially embraced must be so gratifying.
Mary: Oh I loved that moment so much. Really this episode felt like a Lower Decks episode but live-action. I love how Strange New Worlds’ format allows for this kind of flexibility. One day you have a serious episode, the next you’re turning into cartoons.
Victor: Absolutely. Because SNW isn’t locked into a ten-episode plotline arc, they can do fun one-offs like this, the fairy tale episode, and (coming soon) a musical episode.
Mary: Yup! Anyway, eventually our crew figures out that they have a piece of Archer’s Enterprise on the ship, which contains the technobabble stuff needed to send Mariner and Boimler back.
Victor: I loved that it was Mariner that remembered that tidbit from the museum tour. Boimler was too obsessed with the grapplers. (La’an shares his fascination.)
Pretty much everything in the episode was delightful. I like that SNW takes big swings and they hit most of them.
Mary: Totally! My one complaint was that it was too short lol.
Victor: Yeah, it only clocked in at 48 minutes! Most of these have been 55-60 minutes long this season. We could’ve had another 8 minutes of Pike being exasperated with Boimler and trying to stop his surprise party!