On Star Trek: Lower Decks, Everyone’s Just a Bunch of Adorable Nerds

Boimler and Mariner find themselves dealing with a very gagh-hungry Klingon. (Image: CBS)
Boimler and Mariner find themselves dealing with a very gagh-hungry Klingon. (Image: CBS)

Star Trek has a reputation as the “serious” sci-fi adventure series for a reason. Put away your whizzbang space-dogfights and your glowstick swords, this is the franchise where serious science happens! Diplomatic talks! Sample analysis! Everyone’s basically a bunch of geeks. That’s not a bad thing, of course — and this week’s Lower Decks leaned into that.

Illustration: Jim Cooke

“Envoys” splits our Ensign heroes into two separate plots: in one, Boimler and Mariner are tasked with escorting an, uh, rowdy Klingon general to peace talks on a planet teeming with alien cultures. Meanwhile back on the Cerritos, Rutherford tries to make time to hang out with Tendi by seeing if there’s a division in Starfleet that doesn’t take all his time up in Jeffries tubes like Engineering does (as much as the man loves himself some tubes), prompting a whirlwind tour through Command, Medical, and Security.

Star Trek: Lower Decks Is Fun as Hell, and So Much More

Coming into Star Trek: Lower Decks, there was a lot of uncertainty about the franchise boldly going into a comedic frontier. Star Trek has always been open to humour in the past, but would it still feel like Star Trek if one of its own shows was more about laughs...

Read more

Both plots are ripe for the sort of knowing Star Trek humour that Lower Decks traffics in. On the Boimler/Mariner side, you get her hands-on experience as a Trek character to not just contrast with Boimler’s book smarts, but let her become an almost Dax-esque old soul, effortlessly navigating her way through Klingons, Andorians, Ferengi, and more. This is much to her fellow Ensign’s chagrin, as he gets tongue-tied over treaty bullet points and diplomatic knowhow bred from years of Starfleet Academy training.

Tendi and Rutherford embracing the things they most love about their work. (Image: CBS)

Meanwhile, Rutherford’s exploration of alternate divisions gets to play up the sort of high-school clique ideas we have about Starfleet’s different subsections. Command is just a bunch of action-heroes getting a thrill from intense, do-or-die scenarios, as Ransom puts Rutherford through the holo-paces in a series of ill-advised training programs. Medical isn’t just about fixing a busted up crewmate’s body — which comes naturally to an engineering geek like Rutherford — but being sociable enough to help said crewmate get through that fixing up (something Rutherford is…not). And then security is just a bunch of jocks who love wild training and yelling at each other with chest-pumping bravado about bear packs.

It’s all very fun, but the episode is ultimately about something rather earnest beneath its simple comedic commentary. What ties its two plotlines together is that, ultimately, every one of these characters is part of Starfleet because they’re just a really big bunch of nerds that love what they do. Rutherford can’t help but go back to Engineering because he lives for weeks calibrating tiny systems in cramped Jeffries tubes. Tendi only wants him to hang out and watch a pulsar with her because she loves science so much she wants to share that with other people, and bond over that passion. The bridge officers all love touting what their divisions are about because they truly love them, but are actually happy to let Rutherford bounce between them because they want him to learn what best works for his nerdy passions.

Mariner's more than happy to let herself look like a bit of a goof to lift Boimler's spirits. (Image: CBS)

Down planetside, Boimler’s desire to follow the rules and put his best foot forward all the time is not just because he cares about what he learned preparing for all this in the academy, but because he’s proud to present Starfleet at its best at all times (even when that pride sometimes gets him accidentally into an Andorian/shapeshifter bar brawl). Even Mariner, presented as that cynical know-it-all who’s been there/done that with all this Star Trek absurdity, cares enough to embrace that absurdity and use her carefree experience to save her friend — and let him save some face against her to lift his spirits by the episode’s end.

“Envoys” might not be the densest episode of Star Trek japes, but its message is delightfully clear: they might joke a lot about it, but all these characters are just a bunch of nerds really happy to be here, doing Star Trek-y things. That’s as fun to watch in a silly scenario as it is in the serious ones where past Trek shows have gone before.