Back in “First First Contact,” Rutherford got a stray memory that indicated that his cybernetic implants were not obtained voluntarily, but that whoever put them in programmed him to believe that it was an elective surgery.
This week’s Lower Decks gives us a lot more background on Rutherford, and it’s not pretty, though it does provide us with some actually really good character development.
RECRUITING SPOILERS TO JOIN STARFLEET!
Rutherford has consistently been portrayed as the nerdiest nerd in Nerdylvania, but in this episode we find out that it was not always thus. Rutherford has been having nightmares, including him working frantically on a critical system that’s about to explode and his reflection has no cybernetic implants.
Tendi deletes the cache that has built up in his electronic memory, but that allows a younger version of Rutherford to come to the fore. Apparently when they gave Rutherford his implants, his brain partitioned, and one version stayed in his subconscious, and now it’s trying to become conscious.
Trek has done this sort of thing before, whether it’s Kirk split into his “good” and “evil” selves in the original series’ “The Enemy Within” or Picard getting a chance to revisit his wilder younger self in TNG’s “Tapestry.” In this case, we find out that Young Rutherford was kind of a dick. Still a quality engineer, but much more dudebro-ish and self-centered and uncaring about rules and regs. He also is very bad at faking being Current Rutherford, especially since he doesn’t know any of the crew.
When Tendi realizes that Rutherford isn’t himself, she calls security on him, and Shaxs eventually tracks him down and stuns him. The conflict between Rutherfords combines with the stun blast to cause Rutherford’s body to lapse into a coma. They confront each other in a mindscape where they decide to settle who gets to keep the body (with the other one basically going to oblivion) by each building a ship and then racing it in the Devron system, which involves going through the Romulan Neutral Zone. Young Rutherford builds himself a fancy-ass hot-rod ship called the Sampaguita, which looks like Anakin Skywalker’s pod in The Phantom Menace with Trekkish nacelles. Current Rutherford constructs a duplicate of the Delta Flyer, complete with the dorky racing outfits from “Live Fast and Prosper.” Young Rutherford dismisses the Flyer as a shuttlecraft with a paint job, while Current Rutherford dismisses the Sampaguita as a chair attached to an impulse engine.
In the end, though, the Flyer wins. This is mainly because it is a mindscape, and so Rutherford doesn’t just provide himself with a ship, but also a crew that includes Mariner, Boimler, and Tendi. When a Romulan ship appears, it’s the Sampaguita that takes all the damage, and it’s destroyed, but Current Rutherford and his crew are able to rescue Young Rutherford. The latter concedes, and gives Current Rutherford a memory of an explosion that badly damaged his body and resulted in him getting his cybernetic implants—and whoever did it created a cover story that he volunteered for the implants. So much of his memory had to be erased—seemingly for some kind of security reason—that his entire personality changed to the “okeydokey” Rutherford we all know and love.
This plot is very compelling, for all that it’s ridiculous. I like the fact that Rutherford used to be a douche, and I’m also happy to see that they’re revisiting that tease from the end of last season. I’ll be curious to see where it goes from here. While I’m leery of conspiracies within Starfleet generally, I’m willing to give this a chance—this being LD, it could go somewhere completely ridiculous…
Meanwhile, our B-plot has Mariner and Boimler representing Starfleet at the twenty-fourth-century equivalent of a job fair. Ransom has made it clear that Mariner needs to be on her best behavior, to the point where he orders her not to even leave the booth. (What if she has to pee?)
Their recruitment drives are sabotaged by Petra Aberdeen of the Independent Archeologist Guild, who undermines Mariner’s sales pitches. (“Want to become a Borg drone? Starfleet crews are assimilated all the time” and so on.) She drives Mariner completely crazy, but the breaking point actually comes when word gets around that Mariner and Boimler aren’t allowed to leave the booth. They’re taunted by the Collectors Guild, the Truthers, a couple of Ferengi, and the Outpost Scientists. The latter are the straw that breaks Boimler’s back, as one scientist removes his rank pin and tosses it away to get stepped on.
Boimler then goes completely ripshit, tearing the entire place apart while ranting and raving—which was what Aberdeen wanted all along. With Boimler going nuts, she’s able to sneak into the museum and retrieve the scepter of the Grand Nagus, which the museum on the planet apparently stole. Aberdeen contacts Mariner after the mission is over and thanks her for the help and offers her a place in her guild if she ever gets tired of Starfleet. Mariner refuses, but also keeps Aberdeen’s contact info. Best of all, though, is that Mariner actually gets some potential Starfleet recruits (mostly because Boimler’s tirade is impressing everyone, particularly with how much confidence he’s showing). Boimler does wind up in the brig for this, but even as he and Kayshon are escorting him there, Ransom admits that he’s impressed with how Boimler defended Starfleet.
I love this episode because the humor grows naturally from the situation, from the setting, and from the characters. We learn a lot about Rutherford, and we see the depth of Mariner and Boimler’s friendship, as the latter helps the former keep her cool in the face of Aberdeen’s taunting. (I do also love the business of the model ship constantly breaking despite Boimler’s multiple attempts to fix it.) For that matter, we also see the depth of Tendi and Rutherford’s friendship, as Tendi tries to help Rutherford, and Rutherford is scared to death of what his younger self might do to her.
This is the sort of thing LD does best, plus it gives us fodder for future episodes, both in terms of Rutherford’s backstory and a potential reappearance from Aberdeen.
- The Devron system was established as being in the Romulan Neutral Zone in the TNG finale “All Good Things…”
- The Delta Flyer was designed and built by Tom Paris, B’Elanna Torres, Tuvok, Harry Kim, and Seven of Nine on Voyager, first seen in “Extreme Risk” and was used as a support vessel on that ship for most of its final three years in the Delta Quadrant.
- Sampaguita is the national flower of the Philippines, lending more credence to the notion that Rutherford is Filipino. (Eugene Cordero, who voices Rutherford, is also Filipino.)
- Rutherford and Tendi both think that Rutherford has been possessed by an anaphasic lifeform, such as the creature Ronin from TNG’s “Sub Rosa.”
- Among the aliens we see at the job fair are an Antedian (from TNG’s “Manhunt”), someone from the same species as Palor Toff (as played by the late great Nehemiah Persoff in TNG’s “The Most Toys”), a couple of Wadi (from DS9’s “Move Along Home”), a Benzite (from TNG’s “Coming of Age” and “A Matter of Honor” and DS9’s “The Ship”), plus the usual selection of Andorians, Tellarites, Vulcans, Ferengi, Cardassians, and Klingons, and some others besides.
- Boimler’s rants cover things like Starfleet being forced into armed conflict when all they want to do is “look at fucking quasars” (à la the original series’ “The Galileo Seven”), bitching at the Wadi for trapping people in games (the aforementioned “Move Along Home”), saying that the EMH has agency and rights (as discussed in Voyager’s “Author, Author”), and that Boimler “failed the Kobayashi Maru seventeen times, motherfucker!” (referring to the no-win scenario Academy test introduced in The Wrath of Khan).
- The Truthers make reference to Sisko’s fate, from DS9’s “What You Leave Behind,” as well as the attempted parasite takeover of Starfleet in TNG’s “Conspiracy” (which Boimler thinks is just a dumb conspiracy story, but which Mariner quickly says she thinks actually happened—though the Truthers think the parasites went up people’s butts rather than through their necks).
- The Grand Nagus’s scepter was first seen in DS9’s “The Nagus,” and it reappeared several times throughout that show. As of DS9‘s “The Dogs of War,” which takes place seven years prior to this episode, the Ferengi Grand Nagus is Rom, and I can’t bring myself to be surprise that he allowed the scepter to be stolen…
- Kayshon’s only line of dialogue is “Koltar, when he drowned in the swamp,” which in reference to what a hellhole Starbase 80 is.
Keith R.A. DeCandido is at FanX Salt Lake City this weekend—please note that the convention starts today, and runs Thursday to Saturday. He’ll be at Bard’s Tower, booth 2377, alongside fellow word-slingers D.J. Butler, Jay Boyce, Michelle Cori, Larry Correia, Steve Diamond, Marion G. Harmon, Rick Heinz, Gama Ray Martinez, Brian McCellan, Dan Peyton, Christopher Ruocchio, Michael A. Stackpole, and Dan Wells, cartoonists Wendy & Richard Pini, and actor Carlos Ferro. Trek actors William Shatner, Brent Spiner, John deLancie, Donny Most, Ron Perlman, and Mark Alan Sheppard. Keith will also be doing a couple of panels. Click here for more info.