In Review: Star Trek Lower Decks – Moist Vessel (Episode 4)

"the way it's written is worthy of recognition as well-paced and thought out"

Synopsis: This week sees the crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos and the crew team up with another ship, the U.S.S. Merced. The two ships are ordered to tractor-beam the ship to a secure location, as the technology on it can convert non-organic matter into organic matter. Mariner (Tawny Newsome) offends her mother, Captain Carol Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) during a mission briefing by yawning at Captain Durango, of the Merced. Meanwhile, Tendi (Noel Wells) gets obsessed with those who seek to “ascend”, which is to achieve ultimate spiritual enlightenment . . .

 

The Story

More strong writing this week. That element of the show is good. What’s being written might not be incredible stuff, and deserve entry into the elite class of great writing over the years from Trek’s many shows, but the way it’s written is worthy of recognition as well-paced and throughout. The “problem of the week” format works. In its under half an hour the show manages to do a lot of stuff. This week saw the central issue eventually solved (inevitably), but in a smart way that forced Mariner and her mother into an awkward alliance. For both sides. There was tenderness too.

Another problem the show has to manage is the on going romance between Tendri and Rutherford (Eugene Cordero). It’s only simmering at the moment, but there was a potential issue this week, in that Tendri kissed O’Connor, whose ascending to beyond the physical realm she accidentally messed up as she observed, before knocking into everything and destroying a sacred sculpture. Eventually he ascends so that he’s firmly out of the way, so the love interest is still on the cards. This way it avoided the cliché of a love triangle. The show knows what it’s doing.

 

The Voices and Characters

 

Central to this episode is the emotional development between mother and daughter. The two voice actors Tawny Newsome and Dawnn Lewis clearly have a really great handle on both characters. Additionally they capture the dynamic of their relationship well and explore it with honesty and sensitivity. They really make them their own, which comes through. The show’s strength is that it has interesting characters and reveals bits of them slowly. Tendri (Noel Wells) is a good example of that. She’s even self-aware of her own desire to be liked and expresses that to Rutherford (Eugene Cordero). Tendri then gives a example of her inability to overcome it by demanding that Rutherford tells her who the crew that don’t like her are. His response shows that he knows her well and accepts her just as she is.

The Animation

 

The benefit of the simple animation style continues to be that the writing doesn’t have to consider potential limitations. Pretty much anything can be done. In some ways that takes lots of what has always made Star Trek so special, Boundaries had to be constantly pushed to achieve effects. It soon gets boring  talking about the look of the show and hating it based solely on that. It’s easily the weakest link and it does seem that more could have been done for this show to truly matter, but as the weeks go on it is less irritating. Slightly. At least the writers do make the most of being able to easily do pretty much anything they want to.

 

Overall

It’s hard to hate the show. Easy not to love it. Whatever else may or may not be true, the writers know their Trek history. There were more references in this episode. Some subtle, like Ransom (Jerry O’Connell) embodying early Riker and using the famous elevated leg-pose and “Riker lean”. The show’s strength is in the set up and how the crew adapt to knowing that they are way down the pecking order. Not just the ensigns who make up the lower decks, but the ship as a whole. The whole premise is a constant battle to be relevant. Perhaps this is also true of the show itself, as it fights its army of haters, most of which decided before hand that it was garbage. If the show was done as a serious animation, the set up would be an incredible way to start a new show. It would work well in live-action, too. As smart as the writing is and at times lots of fun, a show that doesn’t take itself seriously enough to compete with other shows in the same franchise will never be able to become truly memorable. It’s a damn shame the show won’t ever really matter, as the premise, characters and stories are all there to make it shine, in a similar way to The Mandalorian has for Star Wars. As it is it twinkles on the fringes, of Star Trek as a franchise, but is getting brighter as the weeks go by.

7.8
Star Trek Lower Decks - Moist Vessel
  • Story
    8.6
  • Voices
    8.2
  • Animation
    6.7
  • Overall
    7.8
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