Okay, regardless of what else the latest episode of Lower Decks did or didn’t accomplish, it did one thing for which it will always have a warm place in my heart: It gave us Badgie, a 24th-century version of Clippy. Everyone who used Microsoft products around the turn of the millennium has probably had a run-in with Clippy, the “office assistant” that was part of Microsoft Office 97 that looked like a talking paperclip. It’s also likely that, if you did encounter Clippy, you either wanted to beat it to a pulp or was convinced that it was really an evil creature sent to destroy us all.
Badgie confirms both those states of affairs. It’s possibly the best piece of social commentary Star Trek has ever done.
Okay, maybe not, but damn, it was hilarious. Rutherford created Badgie as a tutoring tool to help people on the holodeck with various Starfleet procedures. It’s a combadge with a face and little arms and legs. Very adorbs.
Turns out that Tendi somehow graduated the Academy without finishing the space-walking certifications. Her professor gave her a B and she didn’t say anything, it was probably a clerical error, but they may need to do space-walking, and she’s panicking.
Rutherford takes her to the holodeck so Badgie can help her with space-walking, though sometimes he’s slow to load the right program. Then the holodeck malfunctions (because of course it does), and Badgie goes psychotic. While the malfunction keeps the holodeck from shutting down and the safeties are disengaged (because of course they are), they can change the setting. Rutherford first changes it to a Bajoran marketplace (complete with a mountaintop shrine you have to climb endless steps to get to), which tires Badgie out, then the middle of a blizzard, which freezes it.
Eventually, the ship returns to normal and Tendi and Rutherford are saved, as Badgie has seemingly gone back to normal.
The downside to this plotline is that it’s only really funny if you remember Clippy. It helps if you, like me, have a deep-seated loathing of Clippy, in which case you’ll be like Brandon in Galaxy Quest (“I KNEW IT!“).
We’re also back to the formula of Rutherford and Tendi’s B-plot being more compelling than Mariner and Boimler’s A-plot. In this case, we have Fletcher. An Academy-mate of Boimler’s, Fletcher goes from nice guy everyone loves who defuses nasty situations to a hapless goon who endangers the ship with his abject stupidity. This half of the plot just doesn’t work because there’s no reason given for Fletcher’s sudden alteration from cool defusing dude to panicky stupid dude. In the first half of the episode he can do no wrong, and in the second half of the episode he can do no right, and the change is never explained.
The particularly dumbass thing Fletcher does is try to make himself smarter by plugging himself into one of the isolinear cores, but that just results in an unconscious Fletcher and an isolinear core that has his brain engrams and tries to consume other pieces of equipment. They toss it out the airlock, where it homes in on a pirate ship that the Cerritos has been confronting and takes it out.
That’s the bridge-level C-plot, and it’s cute. A group of scavengers are trying to claim salvage on a collection of Starfleet wreckage, while the Cerritos is trying to deny their claim, since it’s all Starfleet stuff. Captain Freeman tries very hard to attempt a diplomatic solution, but the scavengers are having none of it. While the scavengers are unarmed, they do have tractor beams, and they literally throw wreckage at the Cerritos.
This is only a problem insofar as the isolinear core that Fletcher broke is part of the defense system, and the shields go down way faster than they should because that piece is busted.
Once the day is saved by Mariner and Boimler tossing the core out the airlock, Ransom confronts the two of them and Fletcher. For his part, Fletcher has threatened to take Boimler and Mariner down with him if they give him up.
Instead, Mariner takes a page from her mother’s playbook. She tells Ransom that Fletcher had the brilliant notion to upgrade the core and toss it at the scavengers. This gets Fletcher a promotion and a transfer to another ship. Naturally, without Mariner and Boimler to cover his ass, he’s “fired” within six days.
(The use of the word “fired” in this episode is irksome, as Starfleet is still a military organization with a hierarchy and stuff. You don’t get “fired” from Starfleet, you get discharged. It’s another case of the writers putting a little too much 21st-century lingo in their 24th century.)
Again, the whole episode was worth it to see Rutherford forced to weepily snap Badgie’s nonexistent neck, and then throw his fists into the air and cry out, “BADGIEEEEEEEE!” to the heavens. And I love that Freeman tries very hard to find a diplomatic solution to the issue with the scavengers, even though they’re having none of it. And Shaxs is hilarious as he wants desperately to fire on the aliens. (“Please, please let me shoot their warp core! I have been very good this month!”)
Still, the A-plot doesn’t really work. Comedian Tim Robinson does a decent job as Fletcher’s voice, but the character is too much of an inconsistent plot construct and not enough of a character to work.
- We’ve got the teaser back, BUT THIS TIME IT WAS FUNNY! No, really! Boimler, Mariner, Fletcher, Rutherford, and Tendi all start comparing the different hissing noises that the engines make, and it’s hysterical—especially when Ransom walks by and thinks they’ve been possessed by aliens…
- Fletcher is transferred to the Titan after his undeserved promotion. While they don’t mention this in so many words, that’s the ship that Riker was given to captain at the end of Star Trek Nemesis, which means he’s the one who fired Fletcher. Weird that a show that goes out of its way to name-check other Trek productions didn’t mention Riker by name.
- Speaking of name-checking, the evasive maneuver Freeman calls for is called “Sulu Alpha.”
- While most of the publicity has focused on Saturday Night Live alumnus Robinson voicing Fletcher, the really cool guest turn for me was J.G. Hertzler as the captain of the scavenger ship. They even gave him an eyepatch over his left eye! (Hertzler is blind in that eye, and his recurring character of Martok on DS9 lost his left eye as well.)
- Tendi really hopes that one of the wrecks in the salvage yard that’s being fought over has the old-style communicators with the clamshell.
- One of Fletcher’s incredibly non-brilliant ideas for how to deal with the out-of-control isolinear core is to let it beat them up and then say that Q did it. For all that it’s a stupid notion, though, I love the idea that Q is the 24th-century equivalent of the dog ate my homework…
- Rutherford points out that you can do a lot more with the holodeck than just hang out with Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, Sigmund Freud, Cyrano de Bergerac, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Stephen Hawking, or Socrates.
- We learn this week that Boimler and Mariner (and presumably Rutherford and Tendi) are on Beta Shift. Also, they have a nasty rivalry with the overnight Delta Shift. This also means that Freeman follows the imbecilic four-shift rotation that Captain Jellico implemented during his brief tenure as captain of the Enterprise-D.